“The key informant in the U.S. tax evasion case against Swiss bank UBS AG faces prison next year, but his harsher-than-expected treatment by the U.S. Justice Department will undermine efforts to expose secretive offshore tax havens, lawyers and whistle-blower advocates say.

Bradley Birkenfeld, a 44-year-old U.S. citizen, has been hailed by his attorneys and prosecutors alike as pivotal to the tax case against UBS , his former employer.

The case centered on UBS’s private banking business and on wealthy Americans who used their Swiss accounts to hide money overseas to evade taxes. In August, UBS agreed to turn over 4,450 names of American clients with undisclosed offshore accounts to settle a civil suit by the U.S. government.

By coming forward in the summer of 2007 and volunteering insider information to the Justice Department, Birkenfeld exposed a “massive fraud scheme” that probably never would have been discovered otherwise, said Kevin Downing, a senior Justice Department trial lawyer who spoke at his sentencing in Fort Lauderdale on August 21.”

 

Orginal article by Tom Brown

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