|Swiss Parliament Rejects UBS DOJ Deal|
Washington D.C. June 8, 2010. The Federal Assembly of the Swiss parliament voted to reject a deal between the Department of Justice (DOJ) and UBS in which UBS had agreed to turn over the names of 4,450 U.S. citizens who held secret and illegal bank accounts at UBS.
Stephen M. Kohn, Executive Director of the National Whistleblowers Center and attorney for Bradley Birkenfeld, said:
Dean A. Zerbe, co-counsel for Mr. Birkenfeld, said:
"The Obama administration put all its chips on a roll of the dice and today with the rejection by the assembly in Switzerland they came up snake-eyes. The Obama administration needs to show initiative and not just sit and wait hoping for good news from Switzerland. The Obama administration needs to be taking full advantage of the mountain of information provided by the key whistleblower, Bradley Birkenfeld, instead of letting it gather dust in government warehouses."
The vote is the latest development in the case of former UBS banker Bradley Birkenfeld. In 2007, Mr. Birkenfeld became the first Swiss banker to blow the whistle on American citizens using secret Swiss bank accounts to violate U.S. tax and securities law. As a direct result of his disclosures, UBS closed its North American division (with approximately $20 billion dollars in assets), agreed to pay the U.S. government a $780 million dollar fine, and agreed to turn over the names of 4,450 account holders.
Throughout his disclosures to the DOJ, Mr. Birkenfeld warned that Swiss politicians would stall and block the release of client names and urged them to open a legitimate criminal investigation using the detailed information he provided. Mr. Birkenfeld provided the DOJ with detailed information that would have (and still could) permit them to conduct a criminal investigation and identify the major UBS America account holders. The Swiss Parliament will now try to reach a compromise that would require UBS to turn over client information by August 20, the deadline set by the deferred prosecution agreement between the DOJ and UBS.
The U.S. Justice Department admitted in court proceedings that "but for Mr. Birkenfeld" the illegal $20 billion tax evasion "scheme" by the Swiss banking giant UBS "would not have been discovered by the U.S. government." Despite his undisputed contribution toward enforcement of tax laws, Mr. Birkenfeld was the only banker prosecuted by the U.S. government.
The National Whistleblowers Center urges all members of the public to send letters in support of Mr. Birkenfeld's clemency petition, which is pending before the Pardon Attorney.