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US sentences ex-UBS banker to 40 months in prison

By AFP

A US federal court on Friday sentenced a former American banker at Swiss banking giant UBS to three years and four months in prison for helping wealthy US clients evade taxes, the Justice Department said.

Bradley Birkenfeld pleaded guilty to conspiring to defraud the United States on June 19, 2008. The whistleblower's confession led to the US government's probe of a multimillion-dollar tax evasion case against UBS, Switzerland's biggest bank.

Birkenfeld, of Weymouth, Massachusetts, was sentenced by Judge William Zloch in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

The sentencing came two days after UBS and the US and Swiss governments reached a landmark out-of-court settlement of a US civil tax fraud complaint.

According to court documents and statements made in court Friday, the Justice Department said, Birkenfeld worked as a private banker in Geneva for UBS.

While at UBS, Birkenfeld helped an American billionaire real estate developer avoid paying 7.2 million dollars in taxes by helping the developer conceal 200 million dollars of assets hidden offshore in Switzerland and Liechtenstein, the department said.

Birkenfeld routinely traveled to and had contacts within the United States in an effort to help wealthy Americans hide their assets offshore to evade taxes.

"To those taxpayers who have illegally hidden their income in foreign bank accounts and to those who have illegally helped clients hide income and assets, today's sentencing serves as notice: come in and completely come clean," said John DiCicco, acting assistant attorney general of the Justice Department?s tax division.

DiCicco was referring to the government's temporary voluntary disclosure program, which expires on September 23.

Jeffrey Sloman, acting US attorney for the Southern District of Florida, warned tax evaders against complacency after the US government reached out-of-court settlements in civil and criminal tax-fraud cases against UBS>

"Those who have stashed money offshore should not take comfort in the fact that the UBS investigation seems to have reached criminal and civil resolutions," Sloman said.

"New leads and additional evidence are being uncovered each day. We are committed to pursuing these new leads and to developing additional cases against those who assist Americans evade their income tax obligations."

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