On October 27, 2017, the IRS and the DOJ announced that Mr. Hyung Kwon Kim, a South Korean citizen and a Legal Permanent Resident of the United States, pleaded guilty to failure to file correct FBARs.
Alleged Facts of the Case Which Led the South Korean Citizen to the FBAR Guilty Plea
Mr. Kim is a South Korean citizen who became a US permanent resident in 1998. At that time, he traveled to Switzerland to identify financial institutions at which he could open accounts for the purpose of receiving transfers of funds from another person in Hong Kong. Over the next few years, Mr. Kim opened accounts at several banks, including Credit Suisse, UBS, Bank Leu, Clariden Leu, and Bank Hofmann. By 2004, the aggregate value of Mr. Kim’s accounts exceeded $28,000,000.
Mr. Kim engaged in activities to conceal the funds from the IRS. In order to accomplish this, he also enlisted the help of several bankers, including Dr. Edgar H. Paltzer (who was convicted in 2013 for conspiring to defraud the United States). Dr. Paltzer and other bankers assisted Mr. Kim in opening of sham entities organized in Liechtenstein, Panama and the British Virgin Islands as well as bank accounts in the name of these entities.
Mr. Kim also utilized other means to conceal funds from the US, including directing his bankers to issue checks in the millions of dollars payable to third parties in the United States. This is exactly how the South Korean citizen purchased his personal residence in Greenwich, Connecticut.
In 2005, Mr. Kim created a nominee entity to hold title for the purchase of another home on Stage Harbor in Chatham, Massachusetts, for nearly $5 million. Here, Dr. Paltzer and Mr. Kim engaged in a purchase in such a manner as to create the appearance that Mr. Kim was renting a property from a fictitious owner.
Furthermore, between 2000 and 2008, Mr. Kim took multiple trips to Zurich and withdrew more than $600,000 in cash during these visits. He also brought his offshore assets back to the United States by purchasing millions of dollars’ worth of jewelry and loose gems. In 2008, for example, Mr. Kim purchased an 8.6 carat ruby ring from a jeweler in Greenwich, Connecticut, which he financed by causing Bank Leu to issue three checks totaling $2.2 million to the jeweler.
After the UBS case in 2008, Mr. Kim’s banker at Clariden Leu informed Mr. Kim that due to ongoing investigations in the United States he had to either disclose the accounts to the US government, spend the funds or move the funds to another institution. Mr. Kim chose to move the funds into nominee accounts at another bank.
In 2011, the South Korean citizen engaged in the ultimate strategy of concealment by liquidating the accounts by, among other things, withdrawing tens of thousands of dollars in cash and purchasing three loose diamonds for about $1.7 million from a Greenwich jeweler. Finally, as part of his guilty plea, Mr. Kim also admitted that he filed false income tax returns for 1999 through 2010, on which he failed to report income from the assets held in the foreign financial accounts that he owned and controlled in Switzerland.
FBAR Criminal Penalties and Other Penalties that the South Korean Citizen Faces
As part of his plea agreement, Mr. Kim will pay a civil penalty of over $14,000,000 dollars to the United States Treasury for failing to file, and filing false FBARs. Separately, Mr. Kim faces the sentencing scheduled for January 26, 2018 before the US District Court Judge T.S. Ellis III. The South Korean Citizen faces a statutory maximum sentence of five years in prison. He also faces a period of supervised release, restitution, and monetary penalties, in addition to the FBAR penalty.