Ex-UBS Banker Surrenders to U.S. in 2011 Tax Evasion Case

A former UBS AG banker surrendered to U.S. authorities to face a 2011 indictment that he conspired to help wealthy Americans evade taxes by hiding accounts in a smaller Swiss regional bank.

Martin Lack, a Swiss resident and independent investment advisor, turned himself in to U.S. marshals in Miami on Oct. 14 and was arraigned the next day, court records show. He was released on a $750,000 bond and returned to Switzerland with consent of the U.S. He faces a Nov. 25 trial in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

A U.S. crackdown on offshore tax evasion since 2009 has led to charges against about three dozen foreign bankers, lawyers, and advisors, including Lack. Most are at large. About 70 taxpayers have been charged.

On Oct. 19, Raoul Weil, former head of the UBS global wealth management business, was arrested in Bologna, Italy. He checked into a hotel under his own name, triggering an alert to Italian authorities.

Lack’s indictment charges him with conspiring from 1993 until 2010 to help clients hide assets from the U.S. Internal Revenue Service through accounts at UBS and a Swiss cantonal bank. That bank, not named in the indictment, is Basler Kantonalbank, according to a person familiar with the matter.

Lack “would and did solicit U.S. customers to open undeclared accounts at UBS and Cantonal Bank because Swiss bank secrecy would assist U.S. customers to conceal their ownership of the accounts,” according to the indictment.

‘FEARED ARREST’

He asked another former UBS banker, Renzo Gadola, to meet his U.S. clients because “Lack feared that he would be arrested by U.S. authorities,” according to the indictment.

Peter Raben, an attorney for Lack, declined to comment yesterday on his client’s surrender.

Gadola pleaded guilty in December 2010, admitting he serviced hundreds of secret Swiss accounts at UBS from 1995 to 2008 and later as an asset manager. He cooperated with U.S. prosecutors and was given five years of probation by a judge who cited his “extraordinary cooperation.”

Gadola and Lack were accused of discouraging taxpayers from joining an IRS program to avoid prosecution by voluntarily disclosing their accounts.

38,000 TAXPAYERS

About 38,000 taxpayers disclosed their accounts to the IRS since 2009, when UBS AG, the biggest Swiss bank, was charged with helping Americans hide assets from the IRS. UBS avoided prosecution by admitting it fostered tax evasion, paying $780 million and handing over data on 250 secret accounts. It later disclosed another 4,450 accounts.

On Aug. 16, Swiss lawyer Edgar Paltzer pleaded guilty in New York, admitting that he conspired for more than a decade to commit tax fraud by helping U.S. clients hide millions of dollars. He was indicted on April 16 with a Swiss banker, Stefan Buck.

Paltzer is cooperating with U.S. authorities in their broader investigation of how foreign banks and advisors helped U.S. clients evade taxes, his lawyer, Thomas Ostrander, said at the time. Buck hasn’t responded to the charges.

The Lack case is U.S. v. Lack, 11-cr-60184, U.S. District Court, Southern District of Florida (Fort Lauderdale). The Gadola case is U.S. v. Gadola, 10-cr-20878, U.S. District Court, Southern District of Florida (Miami).

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