On January 18, 2017, three US taxpayers pleaded guilty for hiding millions of dollars in their secret Swiss and Israeli bank accounts (hereinafter “Swiss-Israeli Bank Accounts”) and failing to report these Swiss-Israeli Bank Accounts on their FBARs.
Facts of the Case Involving Secret Swiss-Israeli Bank Accounts
All three defendants are relatives – Mr. Dan Farhad Kalili and Mr. David Ramin Kalili are brothers while Mr. David Shahrokh Azarian is their brother-in-law. They are all residents of Newport Coast, California.
According to the documents filed with the court and statements made in connection with the defendants’ guilty pleas, between May 1996 and 2009, Mr. Dan Kalili opened and maintained several undeclared offshore bank accounts at Credit Suisse and UBS in Switzerland. Similarly, Mr. David Kalili opened and maintained several undeclared accounts at Credit Suisse from February 1999 through at least 2009. He also owned several undeclared accounts at UBS from October 1993 through at least 2008. The brothers also maintained joint undeclared Swiss bank accounts at both UBS and Credit Suisse beginning in 2003 and 2004, respectively.
At the same time, Mr. Azarian opened and maintained several undeclared accounts at Credit Suisse from May 1994 through at least 2009. He also owned several accounts at UBS in Switzerland from April 1997 through at least 2008.
In 2006, we had the appearance of the now famous Ms. Beda Singenberger, a Swiss citizen who owned and operated a financial advisory firm called Sinco Truehand AG. She was indicted in New York on July 21, 2011. The charges were: conspiring to defraud the United States, evade U.S. income taxes, and file false U.S. tax returns. Ms. Singenberger remains a fugitive as of the time of this writing.
In July of 2006, Mr. Dan Kalili, with the assistance of Ms. Singenberger, opened an undeclared account at UBS in the name of the Colsa Foundation, a Liechtenstein entity. As of May 2008, the Colsa Foundation account at UBS held approximately $4,927,500 in assets.
In light of the increased IRS tax enforcement and the UBS case, all three defendants attempted to partially hide their prior ownership of Swiss accounts by moving the assets from one account to another. At the same time, they also tried to legitimize partial ownership of their assets.
Mr. Dan Kalili opened an undeclared account at Swiss Bank A in the name of the Colsa Foundation and in May 2008 and transferred his assets from the UBS Colsa Foundation account to Swiss Bank A. He then made partial disclosure of the Swiss Bank A Colsa account on his individual income tax returns. In 2009, Mr. Dan Kalili opened undeclared accounts at Israeli Bank A and at Bank Leumi, both in Israel. He then closed his joint (with his brother) Credit Suisse account and his own undeclared account and transferred all funds to Israel.
At that time of its closure, the undeclared joint account of Dan and David Kalili at Credit Suisse held approximately $2,561,508 in assets. As of December 2009, Dan Kalili’s undeclared account at Israeli Bank A had the approximate value of $1,569,973 and his undeclared account at Bank Leumi was valued at approximately $2,497,931.
Mr. David Kalili followed almost the same pattern. In August of 2008, he opened an account at Israeli Bank A in Israel and transferred to this account all of his funds from his UBS accounts. He later partially declared the Israeli Bank A account on his individual income tax returns. As of August 2009, Mr. David Kalili’s undeclared account at Israeli Bank A held assets valued at approximately $1,369,489.
Finally, Mr. Azarian also opened an account at Israeli Bank A in Israel in August of 2008. In May of 2009, he closed his Credit Suisse account and transferred all funds to his Israeli account. At the time of its closure, Mr. Azarian’s undeclared account at Credit Suisse held assets valued at approximately $1,903,214.
Criminal and Civil Penalties Imposed For Failure to Declare Foreign Income and Swiss-Israeli Bank Accounts
According to the plea agreements, the criminal and civil penalties were severe. Mr. Dan Kalili, Mr. David Kalili and Mr. Azarian each face a statutory maximum sentence of five years in prison, a period of supervised release and restitution for 2003-2009 tax loss and monetary penalties. The defendants also admitted to committing civil fraud, which exposes them to additional civil fraud penalty.
In addition, each defendant agreed to pay a willful FBAR civil penalty in the amount of 50% of the highest balances of their undeclared Swiss-Israeli Bank Accounts. Mr. Dan Kalili agreed to pay the FBAR penalty of $2,674,329, Mr. David Kalili agreed to pay the FBAR penalty of $1,325,121 and Mr. Azarian agreed to pay the FBAR penalty of $951,607.
Lessons to Be Learned from the Defendants’ Handling of Their Undeclared Swiss-Israeli Bank Accounts
This case is a classical example of what not to do if one wishes to avoid criminal prosecution. Let’s point out five main mistakes which exposed the taxpayers to the IRS criminal prosecution.
The first mistake is obvious – the defendants willfully failed to declare their Swiss-Israeli bank accounts on their FBARs and the income generated by these accounts on their US tax returns.
The deleterious impact of the first mistake was magnified by the usage of an offshore shell corporation to hide the ownership of the Swiss-Israeli bank accounts (while the entity was concerned mostly with Swiss accounts, it was also used to hide the source of funds on the defendants’ Israeli bank accounts).
Third, the defendants engaged in the evasive pattern of opening and closing foreign accounts in various banks in order to hide them from the IRS. The defendants obviously underestimated the IRS ability to track these accounts and ended up giving the IRS additional powerful indirect evidence of intent to evade taxes and the willfulness of their failures to file FBARs.
Fourth, the taxpayers engaged in partial voluntary disclosure outside of any actual voluntary disclosure program. By doing partial disclosure, the taxpayers provided additional evidence to the IRS of their knowledge of the requirement to report foreign income and properly complete Schedule B. At the same time, the fact that their disclosure was only partial further emphasized the willfulness of their prior failure to disclosure foreign income and foreign assets. The readers should remember that a voluntary disclosure must always be accurate and complete; otherwise, the taxpayers simply give the IRS more evidence of willfulness of their tax noncompliance.
Finally, it does not appear that the taxpayers ever considered doing a true voluntary disclosure which could have limited their penalties and prevented the IRS criminal prosecution. One of the first thing that the taxpayers should always consider once they find out about their noncompliance or the possibility of the IRS detection of such noncompliance is to retain an international tax lawyer to review their voluntary disclosure options. The taxpayers failed to do so in this case and paid a very high price.
Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Professional Help with the Voluntary Disclosure of Your Foreign Income and Foreign Assets, including Swiss-Israeli Bank Accounts
If you have undisclosed foreign income and foreign assets, you should contact Sherayzen Law Office for professional help as soon as possible. Our international tax law firm has successfully helped hundreds of US taxpayers around the world to bring their tax affairs into full compliance with US laws and we can help you!