Swiss Lawyer Indicted for Helping to Hide Swiss Bank Accounts and Monies Returned to U.S. Clients
WASHINGTON – The Justice Department announced today that a federal grand jury in Alexandria, Va., returned an indictment charging Felix M. Mathis, an attorney practicing in Zurich, Switzerland, with conspiring to defraud the United States and structuring the importation of currency into this country. If convicted, Mathis faces a maximum sentence of 25 years in prison and a maximum fine of $1.25 million.
According to court documents, in 1997, Dr. Andrew Silva of Sterling, Va., inherited an undeclared bank account from his mother at the Zurich branch of one of the world’s largest international banks. The bank is headquartered in England and also has offices in Zurich, Geneva and the Eastern District of Virginia. The account was held in the name of a sham Liechtenstein trust. In 1999, Silva met with Mathis who managed the account in Zurich. Mathis instructed Silva to keep the account "hush," to not keep any records relating to the account, and to send coded letters to him if he wished to meet. Further, Mathis advised Silva that if he transported or mailed less than $10,000 in U.S. currency back to the United States, he would not have to declare the funds to the U.S. government upon re-entry to the United States.
According to court documents, in September 2009, Silva was informed that the international bank was closing his undeclared Swiss account and that he had until the end of the year to travel to Switzerland to withdraw all funds. Silva made two trips to Zurich in October and November 2009 and met with Mathis at his office and a Swiss banker at the private wealth office of the international bank. Mathis and the Swiss banker refused to wire the money to the United States as it would leave a trail for U.S. law enforcement. Instead, they provided him with $235,000 in U.S. currency. Of that total, Silva received $200,000 in two individually wrapped "bricks" of $100,000 of sequentially numbered, new $100 bills.
According to court documents, with the assistance of Mathis, Silva mailed 26 packages containing over $200,000 in U.S. currency from Switzerland to the United States to himself and another person.
Silva pleaded guilty on Feb. 16, 2010 to conspiracy to defraud the United States and to making a false statement. As part of his plea agreement, Silva agreed to forfeit to the government $211,200 in U.S. currency that law enforcement officials seized from packages that he mailed from Switzerland to his residence in Sterling, Va. On June 11, 2010, U.S. District Judge Liam O’Grady sentenced Silva to two years of probation, including four months of home detention and a $20,000 fine.
Individuals who physically transport, mail or ship, or cause to be physically transported, mailed, shipped or received, currency, traveler’s checks, and certain other monetary instruments in an aggregate amount exceeding $10,000 into the United States are required to file a FinCen Form 105, Report of International Transportation of Currency or Monetary Instruments, with the Bureau of Customs and Border Protection (the CMIR).
United States law prohibits individuals from structuring mailings of U.S. currency into the United States in amounts less than $10,000 if the purpose of the structuring was to evade the requirement to file a CMIR.
An indictment merely alleges that a crime has been committed, and a defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
The case is being investigated by criminal agents from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, U.S. Postal Inspection Service, and the Internal Revenue Service. The matter is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark Lytle of the Eastern District of Virginia, Tax Division Senior Litigation Counsel Kevin M. Downing, and Tax Division Trial Attorneys Mark F. Daly and John E. Sullivan.