Cambata Case: IRS Wins Against Former U.S. Citizen on Offshore Income

In the Cambata case, the IRS successfully demonstrated once again that renunciation of U.S. citizenship will not protect a taxpayer from being pursued for unreported income from foreign accounts. On February 3, 2016, Mr. Albert Cambata pleaded guilty to filing a false income tax return with respect to his unreported Swiss account income.

Facts Related to Mr. Cambata’s Unreported Swiss account income

According to court documents, in 2006, Mr. Albert Cambata established Dragonflyer Ltd., a Hong Kong corporate entity, with the assistance of a Swiss banker and a Swiss attorney. Days later, he opened a financial account at Swiss Bank 1 in the name of Dragonflyer. Although he was not listed on the opening documents as a director or an authorized signatory, Mr. Cambata was identified on another bank document (which the IRS obtained most likely through the Swiss Bank program) as the beneficial owner of the Dragonflyer account. That same year, Mr. Cambata received $12 million from Hummingbird Holdings Ltd., a Belizean company. The $12 million originated from a Panamanian aviation management company called Cambata Aviation S.A. and was deposited to the Dragonflyer bank account at Swiss Bank 1 in November 2006.

On his 2007 and 2008 federal income tax returns, Mr. Cambata failed to report interest income earned on his Swiss financial account in the amounts of $77,298 and $206,408, respectively. In April 2008, Mr. Cambata caused the Swiss attorney to request that Swiss Bank 1 send five million Euros from the Swiss financial account to an account Mr. Cambata controlled at the Monaco branch of Swiss Bank 3. In June 2008, Cambata closed his financial account with Swiss Bank 1 in the name of Dragonflyer and moved the funds to an account he controlled at the Singapore branch of Swiss Bank 2.

In 2012, Mr. Cambata, who has lived in Switzerland since 2007, went to the U.S. Embassy in Bratislava, Slovakia, to renounce his U.S. citizenship and informed the U.S. Department of State that he had acquired the nationality of St. Kitts and Nevis by virtue of naturalization.

Link between the Cambata Case and Swiss Bank Program

It appears that the IRS was able to focus on Mr. Cambata due to information provided by one of the Swiss Bank that participated in the Swiss Bank Program. This led to the IRS investigation that unraveled the whole scheme constructed by Mr. Cambata. Additional information might have been provided to the IRS by one of the Category 1 banks as part of a Deferred Prosecution Agreement.

This affirms what the IRS has stated in the past about its determination to continue to pursue older fraud cases based on the information it already obtained from the Swiss banks. “IRS Criminal Investigation will continue to pursue those who do not pay the taxes they owe to the United States,” said Special Agent in Charge Thomas Jankowski of the Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation, Washington, D.C. Field Office. “Today’s plea is a reminder that we are committed to following the money trail across the globe and will not be deterred by the use of sophisticated international financial transactions that hide the real ownership of income taxable by the United States.”

The Global Reach of the IRS Investigations Grows

Mr. Cambata’s accounts were spread out among the local branches of Swiss banks in Monaco, Singapore and Switzerland. The funds originated from companies based in Belize and Panama (the information regarding these companies was probably obtained through John Doe summons issued in 2015).

It becomes obvious from this case that our earlier warnings about the spread of the IRS investigations beyond Switzerland were correct. The IRS now reaches far beyond Switzerland and focuses more and more on jurisdictions like Belize, Cayman Islands, Cook Islands, Monaco, Panama, Singapore and other favorite offshore jurisdictions. The Cambata case is a grave warning to U.S. taxpayers who still operate in offshore jurisdictions to hide assets from the U.S. government.

The Cambata Case is a Warning to Taxpayers Who Pursued Quiet Disclosure to Cover-Up Past Tax Noncompliance

One of the most curious aspects about the Cambata case is that the IRS never imposed any FBAR penalties or tax return penalties with respect to the later years. While it is not clear from the documents, it appears that Mr. Cambata probably did a quiet disclosure in the year 2009 and has properly filed his FBARs and tax returns ever since.

The FBAR statute of limitations probably did not allow the IRS to impose the FBAR penalties, but the IRS still ignored the quiet disclosure and pursued criminal penalties for the 2006 and 2007 fraudulent tax returns (in addition to restitution of $84,849 – presumable the tax Mr. Cambata would have owed had he filed his 2006 and 2007 returns correctly).

Therefore, U.S. taxpayers who filed quiet disclosure should heed one of the main lessons of the Cambata case – quiet disclosure will not protect you from the IRS criminal prosecution.

The Cambata Case is also a Warning to Taxpayers Who Renounced U.S. Citizenship to Hide Past Tax Noncompliance

The Cambata case also dispels another myth common to U.S. taxpayers: renouncing citizenship somehow prevents the IRS criminal prosecution for past noncompliance. On the contrary, U.S. taxpayers who renounce citizenship may draw the IRS attention because they have to certify that they are fully compliant with the tax laws of the United States.

If the IRS is able to prove that these taxpayers are not fully tax-compliant, then, as the Cambata case clearly demonstrates, the IRS can pursue criminal penalties against former U.S. citizens. It is possible that one of the chief purposes of the IRS in this case was to scare other U.S. citizens who renounced their citizenship to hide their past tax noncompliance.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Legal Help with Your Foreign Accounts

If you have undisclosed foreign accounts, you should contact Sherayzen Law Office as soon as possible. Whether your case involves complex beneficial ownership structures or you own your foreign accounts personally, our highly experienced team of tax professionals can help you!

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