On June 19, 2015, the Department of Justice announced that Bank Linth LLB AG (Bank Linth) signed a Non-Prosecution agreement pursuant to the DOJ’s Swiss Bank Program.
Bank Linth Background
Bank Linth, one of the largest regional banks in Eastern Switzerland, was founded in 1848. It is headquartered in Uznach, Switzerland, which is approximately 35 miles southeast of Zurich. Bank Linth provided private banking and asset management services to U.S. taxpayers through private bankers based in Switzerland. It opened, serviced and profited from accounts for U.S. clients with the knowledge that many were likely not complying with their tax obligations.
Bank Linth’s cross-border banking business aided and assisted U.S. clients in opening and maintaining undeclared accounts in Switzerland and concealing the assets and income they held in these accounts. Bank Linth provided this assistance to U.S. clients in a variety of ways, including the following:
Opening and maintaining accounts in the names of sham entities;
Providing U.S. taxpayers with numbered accounts that hid the taxpayers’ identities;
Facilitating U.S. taxpayers’ withdrawal of cash from undeclared accounts; and
Agreeing to hold bank statements and other mail relating to accounts rather than sending them to U.S. taxpayers in the United States.
On several occasions, Bank Linth opened accounts for U.S. taxpayers through an external asset manager, and one of these accounts was opened in the name of a sham foundation. In that instance, Bank Linth knowingly accepted and included in account records forms provided by the directors of the sham foundation that falsely represented the ownership of the assets in the account for U.S. federal income tax purposes.
Participation in the Swiss Bank Program and the Non-Prosecution Agreement
In accordance with the terms of the Swiss Bank Program, Bank Linth described in detail the structure of its banking business, including its management and supervisory structure, and provided the names of management and legal and compliance officials. Bank Linth further provided detailed and specific information related to its illegal U.S. cross-border business, including the bank’s misconduct, policies that contributed to that misconduct and the names of the relationship managers overseeing the bank’s U.S.-related business. Bank Linth also obtained affidavits from bank employees regarding the bank’s conduct and related matters.
According to the terms of the non-prosecution agreements signed today, Bank Linth agreed to cooperate in any related criminal or civil proceedings, demonstrate its implementation of controls to stop misconduct involving undeclared U.S. accounts and pay penalties in return for the department’s agreement not to prosecute Bank Linth for tax-related criminal offenses.
Since August 1, 2008, Bank Linth held 126 U.S.-related accounts, with over $102 million in assets. Bank Linth will pay a penalty of $4.15 million (this is a post-mitigation penalty).
Consequences for US Taxpayers with Undisclosed Bank Linth Accounts
Most U.S. taxpayers who enter the IRS Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program to resolve undeclared offshore accounts will pay a penalty equal to 27.5 percent of the high value of the accounts. On August 4, 2014, the IRS increased the penalty to 50 percent if, at the time the taxpayer initiated their disclosure, either a foreign financial institution at which the taxpayer had an account or a facilitator who helped the taxpayer establish or maintain an offshore arrangement had been publicly identified as being under investigation, the recipient of a John Doe summons or cooperating with a government investigation, including the execution of a deferred prosecution agreement or non-prosecution agreement. This means that, starting June 19, 2015, noncompliant Bank Linth U.S. accountholders will now pay that 50 percent penalty to the IRS if they wish to enter the IRS Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program.