Swiss bank assists US taxpayers conceal billions


(MENAFN) In a shocking revelation, a major Swiss bank, Banque Pictet, has confessed to aiding American taxpayers and others in concealing billions of dollars from the watchful eyes of the US Internal Revenue Service (IRS). The announcement, made by the Department of Justice (DOJ) on Monday, detailed how the Geneva-based private banking division of the esteemed Pictet Group held approximately USD5.6 billion across 1,637 accounts for United States citizens. This clandestine operation allowed these account holders to evade paying an estimated USD50.6 million in taxes from 2008 to 2014.

To address these serious allegations, Banque Pictet has entered into a deferred prosecution agreement with the DOJ, signifying its acknowledgment of the wrongdoing. As part of this agreement, the Swiss bank has committed to paying a substantial sum of about USD122.9 million in restitution and penalties, underscoring the severity of its actions.

The case sheds light on the intricate methods employed by Banque Pictet and its parent company, the Pictet Group, in facilitating tax evasion for their American clientele. Investigators reveal that the bank utilized "a variety of means," including permitting offshore entities to open undeclared accounts and allowing clients to establish life-insurance accounts under names other than their own.

In a striking revelation, it was disclosed that Banque Pictet went to great lengths to ensure the secrecy of these offshore accounts. The bank held customers' account-related mail within its premises, refraining from sending it to clients in the United States. This strategic move aimed to keep documents reflecting the existence of these accounts outside the United States, beyond the reach of United States tax authorities.

The implications of this admission extend beyond financial penalties, sending a clear message about the consequences of attempting to manipulate the global financial system. IRS Criminal Investigation Chief Jim Lee emphasized, "This case should provide a clear message to others who try to hide their assets and income offshore. Our special agents are experts in following the money, and they are the best at uncovering schemes that try to defraud the United States tax system."

Banque Pictet, overseeing a substantial portfolio of more than USD720 billion in clients' assets, specializes in managing funds for high-net-worth individuals and operates not only in Switzerland but also has a presence in Luxembourg, Singapore, and the Bahamas. The scandal is poised to have broader implications on the regulatory landscape and international efforts to combat financial crimes, urging a reexamination of the mechanisms in place to prevent such abuses in the future.

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