Swiss bankers classified as fugitives after skipping federal court


Wegelin & Co, corporate headquarters, St. Gallen, Switzerland
Daylife/AP Photo used by permission

Wegelin & Co., the 270-year-old Swiss bank facing criminal charges in a U.S. crackdown on firms suspected of aiding tax evasion, failed to appear at a court hearing as prosecutors called the bank a “fugitive.”

Prosecutors said after the hearing…in Manhattan federal court that three Wegelin client managers charged in the case also failed to appear and were considered fugitives.

When no defendants or defense attorneys showed up in court, U.S. District Judge Jed Rakoff asked prosecutors for a proposal on how to proceed. Prosecutors said they will confer with the Justice Department and advise Rakoff on their proposals. “Unlike an individual, arresting a company is somewhat difficult,” Rakoff said…

Wegelin is the first overseas bank to be indicted by the U.S. for aiding tax fraud, federal prosecutors in New York said this month. The three Wegelin client managers at the Zurich branch, Michael Berlinka, Urs Frei and Roger Keller, were also indicted.

The managers serviced “undeclared accounts” for U.S. taxpayers, meaning the income derived from them wasn’t reported to the U.S. Internal Revenue Service, according to the superseding indictment filed this month.

Nothing new about international bankers considering themselves above the law. Especially when an historic function of their services is aiding their clients in defrauding the tax departments of one or another government.

For the first time in modern history we have a Department of Justice that actively seeks to repatriate the funds hidden abroad – instead of just relying on the crooks for fundraising.

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