Saturday, June 07, 2008

UBS may reveal U.S. clients' names in offshore bank accounts probe


Jun 6, 2008

(Reuters) - UBS AG is considering whether to reveal the names of up to 20,000 wealthy American clients as federal authorities intensify an investigation into offshore bank accounts, the New York Times said on Friday, citing people close to the inquiry.

Federal investigators believe some clients may have used offshore accounts to hide as much as $20 billion in assets from the Internal Revenue Service, enabling them to evade at least $300 million in federal income taxes, the newspaper said, citing a government official connected with the investigation.

A spokesman for UBS declined to comment on the report and said the bank's position had not changed.

"We are taking the investigations very seriously. We are putting in a lot of resources in order to work with the investigators. We will analyze these points and if necessary take corrective measures," he said.

According to the newspaper, UBS said it was cooperating with investigators and that it was against the Swiss bank's policy to help Americans evade taxes.

Property developer Igor Olenicoff, whom the newspaper said was a UBS client, pleaded guilty in December to filing a false 2002 tax return, court documents show.

A plea hearing for former UBS banker Bradley Birkenfeld, at which he was expected to enter a guilty plea for his alleged role in a U.S. tax-evasion scheme, has been cancelled and no new date has been set, authorities said on Thursday.

The hearing had been scheduled for Monday.

The newspaper said Birkenfeld is expected to testify about how he helped Olenicoff and others evade taxes.

U.S. taxpayers can use offshore accounts but it is illegal for them to hide income in undeclared accounts.