IRS Pursuit of Mizrahi Bank Clients Gains Steam

It is well-known that the IRS is in hot pursuit of U.S. taxpayers with undisclosed bank accounts in Mizrahi Bank. There have been a number of victories that the IRS has scored against Mizrahi Bank clients. The latest example of this is the case of Monajem Hakimijoo who plead guilty on February 13, 2014.

According to court documents, Mr. Hakimijoo, a U.S. citizen, and his brother maintained an undeclared bank account in Israel at Mizrahi Bank in the name of Kalamar Enterprises, a Turks and Caicos Islands entity they used to conceal their ownership of the account. Mr. Hakimijoo and his brother used the funds in the Kalamar account as collateral for back-to-back loans obtained from the Los Angeles branch of Mizrahi Bank. Although Mr. Hakimijoo and his brother claimed the interest paid on the back-to-back loans as a business deduction for federal tax purposes, they failed to report the interest income earned in their undeclared, Israel-based account as income on their tax returns. In total, Mr. Hakimijoo failed to report approximately $282,000 in interest income. The highest balance in the Kalamar Enterprises account was approximately $4,030,000.

As further described in the release by the U.S. DOJ, in March 2013, Mr. Hakimijoo was scheduled to be interviewed by Justice Department attorneys and IRS special agents. Prior to the interview, Mr. Mr. Hakimijoo, through counsel, provided the attorneys and special agents with copies of his amended tax returns for 2004 and 2005. When asked if the amended tax returns had been filed with the IRS, Mr. Hakimijoo indicated that the returns had been filed. Shortly thereafter, the IRS determined there was no record of the amended returns being filed with the IRS. When Mr. Hakimijoo was asked to provide copies of cancelled checks to prove that the taxes reflected on the amended returns had been paid, none were provided.

Points of Interest of the Mr. Hakimijoo Case

Several features are prominent in this case. First, the Mizrahi Bank account in question was not in Switzerland, but Israel itself. This is one more example of the IRS interest in countries other than Switzerland. Israel is an obvious target, but it appears that it will not take long for the IRS to expand into the neighboring country of Lebanon.

Second, it seems incredible that Mr. Hakimijoo would engage in such reckless conduct as to gamble on the IRS not finding out that he has not filed the amended tax returns. Equally puzzling is the fact that the guilty plea did not involve any type of a false statement charge.

Finally, unfortunately for Mr. Hakimijoo, the facts of his case were greatly influenced by the use of an entity to conceal the ownership of the Mizrahi Bank account.

U.S. Taxpayers with Undisclosed Accounts in Israel Should Do Some Type of Voluntary Disclosure

Mr. Hakimijoo is the latest in a series of defendants charged in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California with concealing undeclared bank accounts in Israel that were used to obtain back-to-back loans in the United States. It is unlikely that the IRS will relent its pursuit at this point given the wealth of information that has been collected through the IRS voluntary disclosure programs as well as the Swiss voluntary disclosure program for banks.

The biggest lesson for U.S. taxpayers with undisclosed accounts in Israel and Mizrahi Bank specifically is that the IRS will not limit itself to Switzerland. Hence, there is a great urgency for these taxpayers to commence the analysis of their voluntary disclosure options as soon as possible. Some options may still be open if these taxpayers come forward now; these options may be closed once the taxpayer is subject to an IRS investigation.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Experienced Professional Help with Your Voluntary Disclosure

If you are a U.S. person who has (or had at any point since 2007) undisclosed bank or financial accounts in Israel and any other foreign country, you should contact Sherayzen Law Office as soon as possible for professional help. Our experienced international tax law firm has helped taxpayers throughout the world with their voluntary disclosures and we can help you.

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IRS Increases Criminal Prosecutions for Willful Failure to File FBARs: U.S. v. Jacques Wajsfelner

In U.S. v. Jacques Wajsfelner, the IRS’s criminal prosecution of the defendant for willful failure to file FBARs was completed when the defendant, Mr. Jacques Wajsfelner, decided to plead guilty. Mr. Wajsfelner pled guilty to willful failure to file the FBAR in Manhattan federal court and he now faces civil penalties of $2.84 million and restitution of $419,940. Under advisory guidelines, he faces 30 months to 37 months in prison at sentencing scheduled for December 20, 2012.

Basic Facts

Mr. Wajsfelner, an 83-year old Holocaust survivor, fled the Nazis as a teenager and became a U.S. citizen, working in real estate and advertisement in New York and Boston. He admitted that he held an account in his own name at Credit Suisse in 1995. In 2006, his advisor helped him open an account in the name of Ample Lion Ltd. At the end of 2007, the account held almost $5.7 million. In 2008, as Credit Suisse started to wind down its U.S. cross-border banking business, Mr. Wajsfelner opened an account with Wegelin and transferred the money from Credit Suisse to the new account. In the later years, the value on this account went down to only $4 million.

In addition to moving money among two accounts, Mr. Wajsfelner also made a huge error of not telling the truth to the IRS about the account, Ample Lion Ltd. (A Hong Kong corporation), and his advisor (Beda Singenberger’s corporation Sinco Treuhand AG) during an interview conducted by the IRS after the investigation commenced. As part of his plea agreement, the IRS agreed not to prosecute him for these statements.

In the end, Mr. Wajsfelner plead guilty to knowing and willful failure to file the FBARs from 2006 through 2011 with the IRS.

Additional Considerations

It is possible that the misleading and untruthful statements to the IRS alone may have been the cause for Mr. Wajsfelner to plead guilty. However, there was another highly unfavorable fact – moving the money between the accounts would have been considered as circumstantial evidence of conspiracy to conceal the money from U.S. government. Also, Mr. Wajsfelner maintained very close contact with the account and directed various transactions to and from the accounts.

Another important consideration is to understand that this is a case of pure willful failure to file the FBARs; there was no associated pleading with respect to tax evasion. This is a very important because it shows that the IRS is willing to prosecute FBAR cases criminally even without tax evasion charges.

US v. Jacques Wajsfelner is Part of a Wave of Prosecutions

U.S. v. Jacques Wajsfelner is not an isolated case or limited only to specific facts of Mr. Wajsfelner.

In addition to Mr. Wajsfelner, the IRS also indicted his former Swiss adviser, Beda Singenberger, on a charge of conspiring to help more than 60 U.S. taxpayers hide $184 million from the Internal Revenue Service in offshore accounts. Wegelin, the 270-year-old Swiss bank, was also indicted February 2, 2012, on charges of helping U.S. taxpayers hide money from the IRS. Also, Credit Suisse said in July of 2011 that it was a target of a U.S. criminal probe. On July 21, 2011, seven of Credit Suisse’s bankers were indicted on charges of helping U.S. clients evade taxes through secret accounts.

In fact, since 2009, U.S. prosecutors have criminally charged about fifty U.S. taxpayers and more than twenty offshore bankers, lawyers and advisers.

FBAR Criminal Prosecutions Will Increase Due to Voluntary Disclosure Programs

It is critically important for non-compliant U.S. taxpayers to understand that, instead of subsiding, this wave of IRS criminal prosecutions regarding the FBARs will only increase.

The primary reason for this growth of FBAR prosecutions are the voluntary disclosure programs, like 2009 OVDP, 2011 OVDI AND 2012 OVDP (now closed). For many years now, the IRS has been collecting detailed information from the participating taxpayers regarding their advisors, banks and other U.S. taxpayers. This mountain of information allows the IRS to identify high-risk banks, advisors as well as specific taxpayers who are likely to be non-compliant with U.S. tax rules. The end-product of this analysis are targeted investigation and, ultimately, criminal prosecutions of non-compliant U.S. taxpayers and their advisors.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Legal Help With FBARs

If you have undisclosed foreign financial accounts that should have been reported to the IRS, contact Sherayzen Law Office as soon as possible. Our experienced tax firm will analyze the facts of your case, identify you potential FBAR liability and propose a specific course of action to deal with your specific situation. Sherayzen Law Office will guide you though your entire voluntary disclosure, including the preparation of all of the necessary tax documents and rigorous IRS representation.