Bank EKI Genossenschaft Reaches Resolution under Justice Department's Swiss Bank Program
The Department of Justice announced today that Bank EKI Genossenschaft (Bank EKI) has reached a resolution under the department’s Swiss Bank Program.
The Swiss Bank Program, which was announced on Aug. 29, 2013, provides a path for Swiss banks to resolve potential criminal liabilities in the United States. Swiss banks eligible to enter the program were required to advise the department by Dec. 31, 2013, that they had reason to believe that they had committed tax-related criminal offenses in connection with undeclared U.S.-related accounts. Banks already under criminal investigation related to their Swiss-banking activities and all individuals were expressly excluded from the program.
Under the program, banks are required to:
Make a complete disclosure of their cross-border activities;
Provide detailed information on an account-by-account basis for accounts in which U.S. taxpayers have a direct or indirect interest;
Cooperate in treaty requests for account information;
Provide detailed information as to other banks that transferred funds into secret accounts or that accepted funds when secret accounts were closed;
Agree to close accounts of accountholders who fail to come into compliance with U.S. reporting obligations; and
- Pay appropriate penalties.
Swiss banks meeting all of the above requirements are eligible for a non-prosecution agreement.
According to the terms of the non-prosecution agreement signed today, Bank EKI agrees to cooperate in any related criminal or civil proceedings, demonstrate its implementation of controls to stop misconduct involving undeclared U.S. accounts and pay penalties in return for the department’s agreement not to prosecute Bank EKI for tax-related criminal offenses.
Bank EKI was founded in 1852 and has its headquarters in the tourist resort town of Interlaken, Switzerland. It also operates small branch offices in Bönigen, Wilderswil, Grindelwald and Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland.
Bank EKI opened, serviced and profited from accounts for U.S. clients with the knowledge that many were likely not complying with their tax obligations. Many of the U.S.-related accounts were transferred from other Swiss financial institutions that were closing such accounts, and Bank EKI knew or had reason to know that a portion of these accounts were likely undeclared.
Bank EKI provided traditional Swiss banking services that it knew could assist, and that did in fact assist, certain U.S. taxpayers in concealing their Bank EKI accounts from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). One such service was hold mail: for a fee, Bank EKI would hold all mail correspondence for a particular client at the bank. By accepting and maintaining such accounts, Bank EKI thus ensured that documents reflecting the existence of the accounts remained outside the United States, beyond the reach of U.S. tax authorities and protected by Swiss banking secrecy laws.
Due in part to the means provided by Bank EKI and its personnel, and with the knowledge that Swiss banking secrecy laws would prevent Bank EKI from disclosing their identities to the IRS, many of the U.S. clients of Bank EKI filed false and fraudulent U.S. Individual Income Tax Returns, or IRS Forms 1040, that failed to report their respective interests in their undeclared accounts and the related income. Moreover, many of the U.S. clients of Bank EKI also failed to file and otherwise report their undeclared accounts on Reports of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts (FBARs).
Bank EKI did not sufficiently implement an effective system of supervisory policies, procedures or controls over its relationship managers to increase its U.S.-related clients’ tax compliance. Moreover, Bank EKI’s relationship managers too readily accepted representations and directions from the accountholders without adequately investigating questionable information.
Since Aug. 1, 2008, Bank EKI held a total of 64 U.S.-related accounts with just over $21 million in aggregate assets. Bank EKI will pay a penalty of $400,000.
Acting Assistant Attorney General Caroline D. Ciraolo of the Justice Department’s Tax Division thanked the IRS, and in particular, IRS-Criminal Investigation and the IRS Large Business and International Division for their substantial assistance. Ciraolo also thanked Dara B. Oliphant, who served as counsel on this matter, as well as Senior Counsel for International Tax Matters and Coordinator of the Swiss Bank Program Thomas J. Sawyer and Senior Litigation Counsel Nanette L. Davis of the Tax Division.
Additional information about the Tax Division and its enforcement efforts may be found on the division’s website.