Swiss banker in eye of U.S. tax evasion storm to face court

Sun Dec 15, 2013 8:32am EST
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By Lisa Jucca and Valentina Accardo

MILAN/BOLOGNA (Reuters) - For years, former top Swiss banker Raoul Weil had U.S. charges for allegedly helping rich Americans avoid tax hanging over him.

Now that he is due to appear in a Florida court on Monday, his lawyer says he is looking forward to confronting them.

His trial, on charges he denies, will offer a respite from the shared cell in the tough Italian jail where the ex-head of wealth management at UBS UBSN.VX was held after his arrest in October on a visit from Switzerland.

It may also unmask more Americans hiding money from the tax authorities, cast a new spotlight on UBS and encourage other banks to hand over information to the United States and European countries also chasing tax avoiders.

In late 2008, Weil became the unwitting trump card in a U.S. drive against banks and countries it says shield tax cheats, accused by U.S. authorities of conspiring to help Americans hide $20 billion.

The following year, UBS paid a $780 million fine and agreed to hand over the names of U.S. clients with secret accounts, breaking Switzerland's tradition of banking secrecy to avoid feared criminal charges against the bank or other executives.

Weil's indictment was not dropped, much to his surprise and that of others at UBS.

The low key banker, fired by UBS when he was indicted, continued living in Switzerland. He joined a small private bank, Reuss Private Group, and then became its CEO.   Continued...

Former UBS banker Raoul Weil is seen in a booking photo after his arrival at the Broward Sheriff's Office in Fort Lauderdale, Florida December 13, 2013. REUTERS/Broward Sheriff's Office via Reuters