|Anti-Corruption and Whistleblower Advocacy Groups Urge Holder to Review UBS Whistleblower Case|
Punishing Whistleblowers Discourages National and International Anti-Corruption Efforts
Washington, D.C. October 22, 2009. Today the National Whistleblowers Center (NWC), the Government Accountability Project (GAP) and the Project on Government Oversight (POGO) urged U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to review the case of Bradley Birkenfeld, the international banker who blew the whistle on secret offshore accounts at UBS Bank in Switzerland. On August 21, Mr. Birkenfeld was sentenced to 3 years and 4 months in prison for his actions, despite the fact that UBS's tax fraud scheme never would have been discovered without Mr. Birkenfeld's disclosure.
The letter calls on the Department of Justice to reconsider Mr. Birkenfeld's case and "take action to prevent one of the worst setbacks in international law enforcement history."
The letter, linked here , states in part:
As estimated by the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Permanent Investigations, $5-7 trillion dollars in U.S. 'taxpayer' assets are hidden in offshore accounts. Annually, the treasury loses over $100 billion in revenue due to these illegal accounts. These accounts provide sanctuary for the worst criminal elements in our society. They are safe havens for people who profit from selling heroin in our inner cities or who bribe our elected leaders. As recognized under international treaties signed by the United States, bank secrecy is the handmaiden of corruption. These international treaties recognize that corruption undermines the rule of law and threatens human rights around the world
In urging the Attorney General to conduct this review, the public interest leaders stated the following:
Lindsey M. Williams, Advocacy Director, National Whistleblowers Center "This case is about more than just Mr. Birkenfeld - it is about every international banker with critical information about the thousands of secret offshore bank accounts held by rich and powerful Americans who are illegally hiding their income. Putting Mr. Birkenfeld in jail serves no purpose and undermines anti-corruption efforts."
Jesselyn Radack, Homeland Security Director, Government Accountability Project "Birkenfeld gave the Justice Department its entire historic case against UBS on a silver platter. It thanked him by letting all the Swiss bad actors go free and prosecuting the whistleblower (Birkenfeld)--an American.
Danielle Brian, Executive Director, Project on Government Oversight"This case sends a clear message to those considering reporting wrongdoing to DOJ: don't bother."