MANHATTAN U.S. ATTORNEY CHARGES TWO SWISS FINANCIAL ADVISERS WITH CONSPIRING TO HIDE MILLIONS FROM THE IRS
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday March 14, 2012
Defendants Also Allegedly Operated Unlicensed Money Transmitting Businesses
Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and Victor W. Lessoff, the Acting Special Agent in Charge of the New York Field Office of the Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation Division (“IRS-CID”) announced the filing yesterday of two separate and unrelated Indictments against HANS THOMANN and JOSEF BECK, independent Swiss financial advisers, who worked separately from each other. They are each charged with conspiring with U.S. taxpayer-clients and others to hide millions in offshore accounts and to evade U.S. taxes on the income in those accounts. They are also each charged with operating unlicensed money transmitting businesses related to their acceptance and distribution of cash that was hidden in their clients’ undeclared Swiss bank accounts. THOMANN allegedly helped his U.S. taxpayer clients hide more than $138 million, and BECK allegedly helped his clients hide more than $129 million.
Manhattan U.S. Attorney Bharara said: “As alleged, Hans Thomann and Josef Beck acted as full service tax evasion advisers to their American clients who did not want to pay their fair share of taxes. In addition to allegedly helping their clients hide their income overseas, Thomann and Beck helped their clients move hundreds of thousands of dollars across the Atlantic without a trace. Thomann and Beck allegedly used random street corners to transfer paper bags full of cash or hotel rooms to evade any detection, and Beck even had deployed a young child to ‘make a drop.’ We will not tolerate this type of conduct. These indictments demonstrate that the United States remains committed to bringing to justice U.S. citizens who violate federal tax laws and the foreign bankers and advisers who aid them in doing so. Our investigations into these practices continue.”
Acting Special Agent in Charge Victor W. Lessoff said: “The Internal Revenue Service is committed to cracking down on offshore tax evasion. We continue to obtain access to more and more information on individuals and institutions who are involved in hiding offshore assets. Ultimately, we are dedicated to assuring the American public that all Americans are held to the same standard of paying their fair share.”
The following allegations are based on two Indictments filed yesterday in Manhattan federal court:
THOMANN was a client adviser at UBS AG, a Swiss bank, from 1993 to 2003. Thereafter, he was a client adviser at a series of independent asset management firms based in Switzerland (collectively, the “Swiss Asset Managers”). While at UBS and later at the Swiss Asset Managers, THOMANN conspired with his U.S. taxpayer clients to hide their Swiss bank accounts, which were maintained at UBS and other Swiss banks, including Wegelin & Co., and to hide the income generated in the accounts from the IRS. BECK was an independent investment adviser at Beck Verwaltungen AG, an independent investment advisory firm, from the late 1980s to 2010. While at Beck Verwaltungen, he conspired with his U.S. taxpayer clients to hide their Swiss bank accounts, which were maintained at UBS and other Swiss banks, including Wegelin & Co., and to hide the income generated in the accounts from the IRS.
In 2008, UBS began to exit the business of assisting U.S. taxpayers in maintaining undeclared accounts, following reports that U.S. law enforcement was investigating the bank for criminal tax offenses. During this time, both BECK and THOMANN helped their respective clients transfer their secret accounts from UBS to other Swiss banks, including Wegelin. The collective maximum value of the assets in undeclared accounts beneficially owned by U.S. taxpayer-clients of THOMANN was more than $138 million; and of BECK more than $129 million. United States taxpayers are required to report the existence of any foreign bank account they own that holds more than $10,000 at any time during a given year, as well as any income earned in any foreign bank account on their individual tax returns.
As part of their management of their clients’ secret Swiss accounts, THOMANN and BECK facilitated their access to cash in the United States and elsewhere in ways that were designed to evade detection by U.S. law enforcement. For example, THOMANN accepted cash while in the United States from his U.S. taxpayer clients who wished to make deposits into their secret Swiss accounts and then, while still in the United States, used that cash to fulfill requests from other U.S. taxpayer clients who wanted to make withdrawals from their secret accounts. The overall effect of these transactions was to ensure that U.S. taxpayers who held undeclared accounts were able to deposit and withdraw funds from their undeclared accounts without having to travel into or out of the United States with cash, and THOMANN did not have to travel into or out of the United States with cash. THOMANN engaged in these transactions in amounts up to approximately $140,000.
Similarly, BECK arranged for his clients to receive from others cash in the United States that represented withdrawals from their secret Swiss accounts and also himself accepted cash in the United States for deposit into his clients’ Swiss accounts. BECK did so by, among other things, arranging money drops on street corners and arranging for anonymous transfers of cash. In one instance, a client of BECK’s who had requested $150,000 from his secret Swiss bank account received a telephone call from an unknown person who directed the client to an address in Brooklyn. When the client arrived at the location, a young child exited a home, walked up to the client’s waiting car, and handed the client a bag containing about $150,000 in cash. In another instance, BECK himself provided a client with approximately $20,000 in cash in a brown shopping bag, which was to be debited from the client’s undeclared account at UBS.
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THOMANN, 61, and BECK, 46, both reside in Switzerland. They each face a maximum sentence of ten years in prison, a maximum term of three years of supervised release, and a fine of the greatest of $250,000, or twice the gross pecuniary gain derived from the offense or twice the gross pecuniary loss to the victims. THOMANN and BECK have not yet been arrested.
Mr. Bharara praised the outstanding efforts of IRS-CID in the investigation. He also thanked U.S. Department of Justice’s Tax Division for its significant assistance in the investigation.
This case is being handled by the Office’s Complex Frauds Unit. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Daniel W. Levy, David B. Massey, and Jason H. Cowley are in charge of the prosecution.
The charge and allegations contained in the Indictments are merely accusations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.