Exclusive: Ex-UBS banker flown to U.S. to face tax fraud trial

Fri Dec 13, 2013 2:53pm EST
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By Valentina Accardo

BOLOGNA, Italy (Reuters) - Raoul Weil, an ex-UBS banker charged by U.S. authorities for allegedly helping Americans dodge taxes via secret Swiss bank accounts, was being extradited on Friday to the United States from Italy to face a trial likely to reignite debate on tax fraud.

Weil, a 54-year-old Swiss citizen who was once the third-highest ranked executive at Zurich-based wealth manager UBS UBSN.VX, was arrested in mid-October while holidaying with his wife at an upscale hotel in the northern Italian city of Bologna.

One of his lawyers and a judicial official told Reuters Weil had left Dozza prison in Bologna early on Friday and was being extradited to the United States. The judicial source said Weil was already on a flight to America.

His trial could help the United States and other Western countries step up their hunt for individuals and companies that use opaque offshore financial centers to avoid paying taxes, tax experts say.

While a global fight against tax cheats has forced offshore centers in Europe to embrace greater transparency, tax experts say much still needs to be done to ensure financial centers in Asia and the Middle East come on board.

Court records from the U.S. District Court in Florida showed Weil is due to appear at a hearing in Fort Lauderdale at 1100 EST on December 16. If found guilty he could face up to five years in jail for allegedly conspiring to defraud the United States.

Weil's lawyer in the United States, Aaron Marcu of Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, declined to comment.

A spokeswoman from the U.S. Justice Department had no immediate comment.   Continued...

A Swiss national flag (top) and a flag of the city of Basel fly over the entrance of a branch office of Swiss bank UBS in Basel October 22, 2013. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann