Acting Manhattan U.S. Attorney Announces Agreement With Swiss Asset Management Firm To Resolve Criminal Tax Investigation
Prime Partners SA Will Pay $5 Million in Forfeiture and Restitution; Receives Non-Prosecution Agreement As a Result of its Extraordinary Cooperation
Joon H. Kim, the Acting United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Stuart M. Goldberg, Acting Deputy Assistant Attorney General of the Justice Department’s Tax Division, and James D. Robnett, Special Agent in Charge of the Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation (“IRS-CI”), announced today that Prime Partners SA (“Prime Partners”) entered into a non-prosecution agreement (“NPA”) with the U.S. Attorney’s Office and agreed to pay $5 million to the United States for assisting U.S. taxpayer-clients in opening and maintaining undeclared foreign bank accounts from 2001 through 2010. The NPA was based on Prime Partners’ extraordinary cooperation, including its voluntary production of approximately 175 client files for non-compliant U.S. taxpayer-clients, and provides that Prime Partners will not be criminally prosecuted. The NPA requires Prime Partners to forfeit $4.32 million to the United States, representing certain fees that it earned by assisting its U.S. taxpayer-clients in opening and maintaining these undeclared accounts, and to pay $680,000 in restitution to the IRS, representing the approximate unpaid taxes arising from the tax evasion by Prime Partners’ U.S. taxpayer-clients.
Acting Manhattan U.S. Attorney Joon H. Kim said: “Prime Partners admits to helping its clients conceal their ownership of foreign bank accounts to avoid their U.S. tax obligations. They created sham entities and even counseled their clients to use pay phones and prepaid debit cards to avoid detection of their tax fraud scheme. The resolution of this matter through a non-prosecution agreement, along with forfeiture and restitution, reflects the extraordinary cooperation provided by Prime Partners to our investigation. It should serve as proof that cooperation has tangible benefits. We will continue to pursue financial services firms around the world that help their clients evade U.S. taxes.”
Acting Deputy Assistant Attorney General Stuart M. Goldberg said: “The message is clear to those using foreign bank accounts to engage in schemes to evade U.S. taxes – you can no longer assume your ‘secret’ accounts will remain concealed, no matter where they are located. In our ongoing investigations, we will continue to draw on information from a variety of sources and to provide substantial credit to those around the globe who provide full and timely cooperation regarding the identity of U.S. tax cheats and the phony trusts and shell companies they seek to hide behind.”
IRS-CI Special Agent in Charge James D. Robnett said: “Today’s NPA signals the continued erosion of the tax secrecy safe havens that helped facilitate this criminal activity at a significant cost to the US taxpayer. IRS-CI is focused on tracking funds of individuals hiding income offshore and will continue to investigate international tax evasion.”
As part of the NPA, Prime Partners admitted various facts concerning its wrongful conduct and the remedial measures that it took to cease that conduct. Specifically, Prime Partners admitted that it knew certain U.S. taxpayers were maintaining undeclared foreign bank accounts with the assistance of Prime Partners in order to evade their U.S. tax obligations, in violation of U.S. law. Prime Partners acknowledged that it helped certain U.S. taxpayer-clients conceal from the IRS their beneficial ownership of undeclared assets maintained in foreign bank accounts by, among other things: (i) creating sham entities, which had no business purpose, that served as the nominal account holders for the accounts; (ii) advising U.S. taxpayer-clients not to retain their account statements, to call Prime Partners collect from pay phones, and to destroy any faxes they received from Prime Partners; (iii) providing U.S. taxpayer-clients with prepaid debit cards, which were funded with money from the clients’ undeclared accounts; and (iv) facilitating cash transfers in the United States between U.S. taxpayer-clients with undeclared accounts.
The NPA recognizes that, in early 2009, Prime Partners voluntarily implemented a series of remedial measures to stop assisting U.S. taxpayers in evading federal income taxes. The NPA further recognizes the extraordinary cooperation of Prime Partners, including its voluntary production of approximately 175 client files for non-compliant U.S. taxpayers, which included the identities of those U.S. taxpayers.
As part of the NPA, Prime Partners has agreed to forfeit $4.32 million to the United States, representing a portion of the gross revenues from services that it provided to U.S. taxpayers with undeclared foreign bank accounts from 2001 through 2010. In connection with this forfeiture, Prime Partners has agreed not to contest a civil forfeiture action to be filed by the United States.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office entered into the NPA based on factors including:
- Prime Partners’ voluntary and extraordinary cooperation, including its voluntary production of account files containing the identities of U.S. taxpayer-clients;
- Prime Partners’ voluntary implementation of various remedial measures beginning in or around early 2009, before the investigation of its conduct began;
- Prime Partners’ willingness to continue to cooperate to the extent permitted by applicable law; and
- Prime Partners’ representation – based on an investigation by outside counsel, the results of which have been reviewed by the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the Tax Division – that the misconduct under investigation did not, and does not, extend beyond that described in the Statement of Facts.
The NPA requires Prime Partners to continue to cooperate with the United States for at least three years from the date of the agreement. In the event that Prime Partners violates the NPA, the U.S. Attorney’s Office may prosecute Prime Partners.
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Mr. Kim thanked the IRS for its outstanding work in the investigation of this matter and the Tax Division of the Department of Justice for its assistance in the investigation.
This investigation is being overseen by the Office’s Complex Frauds and Cybercrime Unit. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Sarah E. Paul and Kiersten A. Fletcher are in charge of the matter.