Ex-Swiss banker pleads guilty in tax dodging case

Tue Nov 6, 2012 8:32pm EST
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By Lynnley Browning and Kevin Gray

(Reuters) - A former Swiss banker pleaded guilty to fraud on Tuesday almost two years after the U.S. government placed him under limited home confinement as part of a long-running investigation of Swiss banks and American tax dodgers.

In federal court in Florida, Christos Bagios pleaded guilty to one count of conspiring to defraud the U.S. government of just over $1 million while employed at UBS AG UBSN.VX.

Judge Kenneth Marra sentenced Bagios to time already served, which included 37 days in prison before his confinement. Bagios, appearing in court in a gray pinstriped suit and black tie, avoided up to five years' jail time and a $250,000 fine.

The 47-year-old Greek citizen and Swiss resident was formerly employed by both UBS and Credit Suisse Group AG CSGN.VX. After cooperating with federal investigators, he was expected to return to his family in Switzerland.

Bagios was arrested in New York in January 2011. At the time, he was a senior Credit Suisse banker. He was originally charged with helping 150 Americans hide up to $500 million from U.S. tax authorities while he worked at UBS for more than a decade through 2008.

The long-running investigation in which he became involved has thrown Swiss banking secrecy, enshrined in the Alpine republic's laws and traditions, into jeopardy, with cash-strapped governments worldwide cracking down on tax evaders.

Bagios's plea in the U.S. District Court for Southern Florida was a change from an earlier plea of not guilty.

Court papers cited Bagios's assistance in the wide probe, saying he "provided cooperation and substantial assistance regarding his former colleagues and customers at UBS AG."   Continued...