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Wegelin Financial Advisors Under Indictment

Offshore Account Update

Posted on May 22, 2015 |

Federal authorities are going after not only banks, but also individual bankers and financial advisors who may have helped U.S. clients to evade their income tax obligations.  Just this past February, a superseding indictment was handed down against financial advisors who worked for Wegelin, one of Switzerland’s oldest banks. 

With crackdowns against banks and bankers ongoing, investors should be aware that the chances of keeping offshore money a secret are rapidly declining. Authorities are determined to find investors who have undeclared offshore accounts.

Once you are under investigation for money held offshore and not properly declared to the IRS, it may be too late to become part of an Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program (OVDP) or otherwise take steps to reduce penalties, fines, and the chances of criminal charges. Speak to a lawyer today about what your options are for dealing with accounts that you may not have reported to U.S. taxing authorities.

Superseding Indictments in the Wegelin Case

The superseding indictment that has been handed down in the Wegelin case removes the bank as a defendant. The bank entered into a plea agreement and paid out $74 million in restitution, fines and penalties.  Wegelin, which had been established in 1741, also sold off core parts of non-U.S. businesses and closed its doors, in large part to protect other clients outside of the United States from the fallout of U.S. investigations.

Since the bank no longer operates and has already pled guilty, the government can take no further legal action against it.  Wegelin was actually the first of the offshore banks that U.S. authorities brought criminal charges against for facilitating tax evasion.

When Wegelin was indicted, three financial advisors were also charged with a conspiracy to facilitate and participate in tax evasion.  The investment advisors, Urs Frei, Michael Berlinka, and Roger Keller, were accused of soliciting U.S. clients by utilizing the Internet and trying to capture U.S. clients from UBS Bank. 

The superseding indictment limits charges against Keller, who has been arrested in Germany and who is currently involved in pending extradition proceedings that could result in him being returned to the United States to face the tax evasion charges.   However, the criminal charges against the other two advisors were not changed by the new indictment.

The case against Wegelin may have been the first against a foreign bank, but it is far from the only one. The Department of Justice and the Internal Revenue Service have been aggressively targeting financial institutions to hold them accountable for the role they play in helping U.S. investors keep money in secret undisclosed offshore accounts. 

The charges against the Wegelin financial advisors are also not the only ones brought against bankers and financial investment advisors for the role they play.  Often, these cases against banks and bankers lead to plea deals where customer information is provided to the U.S. government.

Investors should not wait until the IRS has been told of their offshore accounts. Talk to Kevin Thorn, a Boston tax evasion lawyer, about whether you can take any proactive steps to protect your money.

For a consultation, contact Kevin E. Thorn, Managing Partner, at ket@thornlawgroup.com or (617) 692-2989


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