UBS admits helping tax evaders

Swiss banking giant agrees to pay $780 million and hand over account information after helping U.S. clients evade the IRS.

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By Terry Frieden, CNN Justice Producer

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Switzerland's largest bank, UBS, has admitted helping U.S. taxpayers hide money from the IRS, and has agreed to pay $780 million in fines and restitution, and to turn over account information.

The deferred prosecution agreement was approved Wednesday by a federal court judge in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

"UBS admitted to conspiring to defraud the United States by impeding the IRS," the Justice Department announced late Wednesday.

The statement says that UBS, "in an unprecedented move" based on an order by Swiss authorities, has agreed "to immediately provide the U.S. government with the identities of, and account information for, certain U.S. customers of UBS's cross-border business."

UBS (UBS) also has agreed to end its business practice of providing banking services to U.S. customers with undeclared accounts.

"Swiss bankers routinely traveled to the United States to market Swiss bank secrecy to United States clients interested in attempting to evade U.S. income taxes," the Justice Department said.

The government document says Swiss bankers made a total of about 3,800 trips to discuss their clients' accounts.

The government said that because the bank has acknowledged responsibility for its actions, has cooperated fully, and has taken remedial actions, the United States will recommend dismissal of the criminal charge "provided the bank fully carries out its obligations under the agreement."

Two former UBS bankers have pleaded guilty to charges of conspiracy for similar conduct.

The acting head of the Justice Department Tax Division called Wednesday's agreement "but one milestone" in the effort to make sure U.S. citizens pay their fair share of taxes.

"The veil of secrecy has been pulled aside, and we will continue to aggressively pursue those who shirk their federal tax obligations, or assist others in doing so," said John DiCicco, acting assistant attorney general for the Justice Department Tax Division.

IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman issued a warning to the taxpayers who held the accounts, telling them to voluntarily pay up.

Shulman said the taxpayers should note that Wednesday's agreement also stipulates that the U.S. government will continue to seek enforcement of its court action.

"People who have hidden unreported income off shore need to get right with their government. They should come forward and take advantage of our voluntary disclosure process," Shulman said. To top of page

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