US senators: extradite Swiss bankers

US senators John McCain (left) and Carl Levin have their sights set on Swiss bankers Keystone

US senators Carl Levin and John McCain have urged the Department of Justice (DoJ) to seek extradition of about 30 Swiss bankers and others who are charged with enabling offshore tax evasion and have not appeared in federal courts.

This content was published on March 19, 2014 - 10:22 and agencies

In a letter published on Tuesday to Deputy Attorney General James Cole (see attachment), Levin and McCain wrote that the department should “at least attempt to use” powers under an extradition treaty with the Swiss.

Levin, a Michigan Democrat, and McCain, an Arizona Republican, lead the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, which issued a report last month criticising the DoJ’s enforcement efforts involving Swiss banks, including Credit Suisse.

Since 2009, more than 70 taxpayers and about three dozen bankers, lawyers and advisers have been charged in a crackdown on offshore tax evasion. In testimony to the subcommittee on February 26, Cole said the department had not sought extradition from Switzerland of those indicted by US grand juries. Switzerland doesn’t consider tax evasion a crime.

The extradition treaty “does not bar the extradition of Swiss nationals who assisted US nationals in the commission of criminal tax evasion, and it is time to test the Swiss government’s professed willingness to cooperate with international tax enforcement efforts”, Levin and McCain wrote.

No comment

Emily Pierce, a DoJ spokeswoman, said in response to the letter: “We have limited resources, and we are focused on using our most effective tools.”

Salome Ramseier, a spokeswoman for the Swiss embassy in Washington, declined to comment on the letter.

Credit Suisse, the second-biggest Swiss bank after UBS, is the largest of 14 Swiss banks under criminal investigation in the US. Seven current and former bankers were indicted in 2011 in a federal court in Virginia. One of those bankers pleaded guilty on March 12.

On February 26, a fourth former banker at UBS pleaded guilty to aiding wealthy Americans evade taxes.

Separately, Raoul Weil, a former UBS banker, was released on $10.5 million bail (CHF9.2 million) in December after appearing in a Florida courtroom to face a 2008 indictment. Weil, who was arrested on October 19 after checking into a hotel in Bologna, Italy, waived extradition.

Kathryn Keneally, an assistant attorney general in the DoJ’s tax division, spoke on Tuesday at a conference in Washington. She was asked whether the recent guilty pleas of Swiss bankers represented a new trend.

“I would strongly suggest that what you’ve seen in the last couple of weeks is not a recent trend,” Keneally said at the American Bar Association conference. “Things don’t happen overnight.”

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