Sentencing UBS Whistleblower Undermines U.S. and International Anti-Corruption Efforts
Washington, D.C. November 25, 2009. International organizations, including Transparency International Czech Republic, the Federal Accountability Initiative for Reform (FAIR) – Canada, and The Network for Affirmation of NGO Sector (MANS) – Montenegro have joined the National Whistleblowers Center (NWC), the Government Accountability Project, the Project on Government Oversight, and numerous other U.S. based advocacy groups in their request for U.S. Attorney General Holder to independently investigate the case of Bradley Birkenfeld.
Mr. Birkenfeld is an international banker who blew the whistle and exposed a major tax fraud scheme involving offshore accounts at UBS Bank in Switzerland. Despite the government’s acknowledgement that the UBS tax fraud scheme would have continued undetected without Mr. Birkenfeld’s voluntary disclosure, he was sentenced to 3 years and 4 months in prison for his actions.
The letter calls on Attorney General Holder to immediately review Mr. Birkenfeld’s case and warns that the “destructive impact of Mr. Birkenfeld’s sentencing will radically undermine the ability of law enforcement to detect, prosecute and prevent illegal off-shore banking practices.” The letter points to international treaties that recognize bank secrecy as “the handmaiden of corruption,” which “undermines the rule of law and threatens human rights around the world.”
In releasing the letter, Lindsey M. Williams, Director of Advocacy and Development, National Whistleblowers Center, made the following statement:
“Jailing the whistleblower who courageously busted the Swiss secret banking system does not serve the public interest. Mr. Birkenfeld’s allegations directly led UBS bank to pay the American taxpayers $780,000,000.00 in fines and penalties. His allegations resulted in the establishment of an amnesty program through which over 14,000 Americans have turned in information on their secret accounts and paid fines and penalties. Putting Birkenfeld in prison will be a major set-back to international efforts to detect and prevent banking fraud.”
Click here for a copy of the letter.
The organizations that have endorsed the call for an independent review are: Lindsey M. Williams, Esq.
Director of Advocacy and Development
National Whistleblowers Center
Homeland Security Director
Government Accountability Project
Project On Government Oversight
The Network for Affirmation of NGO Sector (MANS)
Podgorica, Montenegro (PDF version)
David W. Hutton
Federal Accountability Initiative for Reform (FAIR)
David Ondracka, Director
Eliska Cisarova, Project Manager
Transparency International — Czech Republic
Advocacy Co-ordinator, Protected Disclosures Act Unit
Open Democracy Advice Centre (South Africa)
Member Transparency International Ireland
Author of TI Ireland/European Commission report on legal safeguards for whistleblowers in Ireland
Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety
Dr. James Murtagh
International Association of Whistleblowers
Zena Crenshaw Logal
Executive Comm. Chair
National Judicial Conduct and Disability Law Project, Inc.
Michael R. McCray
The 3.5.7 Commission
Dr. Andrew D. Jackson
Asst. Campaign Chair
David B. Nolan, Esq.
President and Legal Director
Federal Ethics Center
Joe Carson, PE
OSC Watch Steering Committee
Dr. Marsha Coleman-Adebayo
No FEAR Coalition
Center for Corporate Policy