Jury acquits ex-UBS AG exec in IRS probe |

Jury acquits ex-UBS AG exec in IRS probe

The Associated Press

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — A federal jury acquitted a former top Swiss banking executive of U.S. charges that he conspired with wealthy Americans to hide $20 billion in secret accounts from the Internal Revenue Service.

Jurors deliberated for just over an hour before returning the not guilty verdict for Raoul Weil, formerly the No. 3 executive at UBS AG. He had faced up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine if convicted of conspiring to defraud the government.

“We’re obviously pleased with the verdict. This was a case that should never have been brought,” said Weil’s attorney, Matthew Menchel.

A spokeswoman for prosecutors said they respect the jury’s verdict.

“This decision will not impact the department’s ongoing commitment to holding offshore tax evaders and those who aid them accountable,” Department of Justice spokeswoman Nicole Navas wrote in an email.

In the courtroom, Weil hugged his wife and lawyers, clenching both fists when the verdict was announced.

Weil was the highest-ranking Swiss banker prosecuted under an IRS and Justice Department crackdown on Americans’ use of offshore accounts to dodge U.S. taxes. In 2009, UBS paid a $780 million U.S. fine and disclosed names of thousands of American account holders to the IRS, many of whom were later prosecuted.

In a closing argument, prosecutor Jason Poole said the case against Weil was simple: He did everything he could to promote and protect a profit-making business that was highly illegal for U.S. taxpayers.

“It’s a simple story of greed and making money,” Poole said. “It’s simple, straightforward, offshore tax evasion. He was participating in it. He was involved.”

Weil, 54, did not testify and his defense attorneys put no witnesses on the stand. In his closing argument, Menchel blamed wrongdoing on lower-ranking UBS bankers acting without Weil’s knowledge and suggested many of the government’s ex-UBS witnesses were unreliable because they were given immunity from prosecution.

“Who are the criminals here? Who are the ones that should be punished instead of getting sweetheart deals?” Menchel said. “It had nothing to do with Raoul Weil or anybody above him.”

Menchel also suggested that it was the wealthy Americans who were to blame for evading taxes because bank secrecy was protected by Swiss law.

“Whose obligation was it to pay the taxes? The taxpayer’s,” he said.

The trial centered on events that took place from 2002 to 2008, when Weil was UBS global head of wealth management. He left UBS in 2009 and had been chief executive officer at another Swiss bank, Reuss Private Group, since 2010. He was arrested while vacationing in Bologna, Italy in 2013 on a U.S. fugitive warrant.

In all, prosecutors said about 17,000 U.S. taxpayers concealed assets from the IRS in the UBS accounts.

Another former UBS banker, Bradley Birkenfeld, provided U.S. officials with a vast trove of information that pierced the veil of secrecy that has long hidden Swiss bank accounts. Birkenfeld nevertheless served more than 2 12 years in federal prison for his role in the tax evasion, but then was awarded more than $104 million by the IRS under a whistleblower program.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.