(Reuters) - Posecutors in New York on Wednesday indicted two Swiss financial advisers, one a former private banker at financial giant UBS AG, on charges of conspiring to help wealthy Americans hide $267 million in secret bank accounts.
In separate indictments, one of them alleging that a child was used to carry cash to a client, charges were brought against Hans Thomann, 61, and Josef Beck, 46. Both live in Switzerland, but they worked separately from each other.
In the latest development in a U.S. crackdown on Swiss banking, the indictment said that Thomann was a client adviser at Swiss-based UBS from 1993 to around 2003, then later worked at a series of unnamed Swiss asset management firms.
He helped U.S. clients hide money at UBS and other Swiss banks, including Wegelin, a small Swiss bank that was indicted last month by the Justice Department for selling tax evasion services to American clients, the indictment said.
Thomann handled around 32 accounts holding $138 million for U.S. clients of UBS, and helped around 13 of them transfer their accounts to Wegelin and other Swiss banks when UBS came under pressure from U.S. authorities around 2008, it said.
Thomann also helped clients fleeing UBS transfer accounts to the Swiss branch of an unnamed Israeli bank, it said.
Beck worked at Beck Verwaltungen AG, an independent advisory firm in Zurich, from the late 1980s to 2010, the indictment said. He managed U.S. client accounts worth $129 million.
Thomann and Beck worked “as full service tax evasion advisers to their American clients who did not want to pay their fair share of taxes,” said Preet Bharara, the U.S. attorney for the southern district of New York, in a joint statement with the New York branch of the Internal Revenue Service.
The two were also charged with “operating unlicensed money transmitting businesses” that funneled client money between banks and clients.
As part of that alleged activity, Thomann took cash for deposit from U.S. clients while in the United States, then used it to hand withdrawal payments to other clients, obviating the need to access more cash while in the United States or to travel with larger amounts of money across the Atlantic.
In one instance, the Beck indictment said, a client of Beck’s “who had requested $150,000 from his secret Swiss bank account received a telephone call from an unknown person who directed the client to an address in Brooklyn. When the client arrived at the location, a young child exited a home, walked up to the client’s waiting car, and handed the client a bag containing about $150,000 in cash.”
UBS reached a deferred-prosecution agreement in 2009 with the Justice Department over tax evasion services sold through its private bank.
Neither Thomann nor Beck has been arrested.
Reporting By Lynnley Browning; Editing by Kevin Drawbaugh and Tim Dobbyn