Swiss bank confirms staff indicted in US tax case

October 12, 2011 - 7:15 AM

GENEVA (AP) — One current and one former employee at the Swiss private bank Julius Baer have been indicted in the United States in a $600 million tax evasion case.

A Julius Baer AG spokesman, Martin Somogyi, said the Zurich-based bank was cooperating with U.S. authorities in their investigation. He provided no further details.

The U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York announced the indictment Tuesday of Daniela Casadei and Fabio Frazzetto on charges of conspiring to help American clients hide more than $600 million in offshore accounts and avoid paying taxes on the money.

Casadei and Frazzetto allegedly opened and managed accounts for U.S. taxpayers with an institution described in the indictment only as "Swiss Bank No. 1" — Julius Baer. Some of the accounts were linked to fictional names, others to relatives living abroad or sham companies created to hide the true owner.

"The defendants also allegedly advised clients not to worry about U.S. law enforcement authorities because Swiss Bank No. 1 no longer had offices on U.S. soil," the U.S. Attorney's Office said.

Julius Baer declined to say which of the two bankers was still on its payroll, citing privacy rules.

Swiss media have reported that Julius Baer is among several Swiss banks currently being investigated by U.S. authorities for aiding American tax evaders.

Two years ago, Switzerland's biggest bank, UBS AG, was forced to hand over the names of thousands of American account holders and pay a $780 million fine in a landmark case that started a gradual erosion of Switzerland's storied tradition of banking secrecy.

Earlier this year Julius Baer paid euro50 million ($68 million) to avoid prosecution in Germany as part of a deal with tax authorities in Switzerland's northern neighbor.

Unlike the United States, where the bank has no branches, Germany is an important market for Julius Baer, which has offices in Frankfurt, Munich, Stuttgart, Duesseldorf, Wuerzburg, Hamburg and Kiel.

Shares in the bank were up 1 percent at 32.36 Swiss francs ($36.06) on the Zurich exchange.