Exclusive: U.S. lacked hard proof in tax trial of ex-UBS banker, jurors say

Tue Nov 4, 2014 6:15pm EST
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By Aruna Viswanatha and Kevin Drawbaugh

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. prosecutors did not present enough hard evidence to link a former top UBS AG UBSN.VX banker to subordinates' schemes to help wealthy Americans hide $20 billion in secret accounts from tax authorities, jurors from the trial told Reuters on Tuesday.

A federal jury in South Florida on Monday took a little over one hour to acquit Raoul Weil, who headed the Swiss bank's global wealth management unit, of conspiring to defraud the Internal Revenue Service. The verdict was a major setback for Washington's efforts to crack down on offshore tax evasion by Americans, and raised questions about how aggressively the government will pursue similar cases against senior executives.

"There were no documents that tied that man to anything, that was our problem," said Tracey Demyer, a 43-year-old medical assistant and one of two jurors who spoke to Reuters. "Ninety percent of the crucial documents did not have that man's name on it."

Prosecutors had obtained the cooperation of several of Weil's colleagues who testified at his trial in Fort Lauderdale, but defense lawyers extensively cross-examined them in an attempt to undermine their credibility.

One banker, Hansruedi Schumacher, admitted under questioning from defense lawyer Matthew Menchel that Weil had nothing to do with a plan to distort legal advice against promoting certain offshore structures to American clients, according to a transcript of the trial.

The testimony of another of Weil’s underlings, Martin Liechti, was pivotal and unconvincing, a second juror, Miami physician Juan Carlos Palacios, said.

"The problem is that I believe Mr. Liechti, that he had discussions with Mr. Weil, but there was no evidence of that. That was the problem," Palacios said.

Mark Daly, lead prosecutor on the case, declined comment.   Continued...

Former UBS banker Raoul Weil, who is out on bail, arrives at federal court in Fort Lauderdale, Florida in this file photo taken October 22, 2014. REUTERS/Andrew Innerarity