(Bloomberg) -- Raoul Weil, a former top UBS AG banker facing trial in Florida on charges of helping Americans evade taxes, asked a judge to allow defense witnesses outside the country to testify by video because they fear retaliation if they come to the U.S.
Lawyers for Weil, who was indicted in 2008, claim that more than a dozen witnesses would give evidence for the defense, yet they fear traveling to the U.S. without a guarantee that they wont be arrested. Those who dont get such protection should be allowed to testify by live video transmission, according to the filing yesterday in federal court in Fort Lauderdale.
Virtually all of the potential witnesses, even those with only a peripheral connection to the events in question, have informed us that they are afraid to travel to the United States to testify, and do not even want their names to be revealed to the government, because they fear retaliation if they appear to support Mr. Weil, according to the filing.
Prosecutors have refused to consider offering safe passage for witnesses unless the defense names them and describes their potential testimony, according to the filing.
The former head of UBSs global wealth-management business, Weil is the highest-ranking banker charged in a U.S. crackdown on offshore tax evasion. Prosecutors say he oversaw 60 private bankers who helped UBS make $200 million a year by managing $20 billion in assets not declared to the Internal Revenue Service.
Weil, a Swiss citizen, first appeared in court on Dec. 16, five years after he was indicted and declared a fugitive. He was arrested Oct. 2 after checking into a hotel in Bologna, Italy, and later waived extradition to the U.S. He is free on $10.5 million bail and staying under house arrest in New Jersey.
He must prepare for an Oct. 14 trial that could include testimony for the prosecution from Martin Liechti, a former manager of the UBS Americas International division.
Liechti, arrested on a material witness warrant in Miami in April 2008, received a non-prosecution agreement and spent four months at a Four Seasons Hotel during debriefings, according to the filing. He agreed to testify at future trials.
Prosecutors have taken steps to ensure that only Mr. Liechtis version of events will be presented at Mr. Weils trial and that Mr. Weil will have little or no opportunity to rebut it, according to the filing.
More than 70 U.S. taxpayers and three dozen foreign bankers, lawyers and advisers have been charged in a U.S. initiative against offshore tax evasion since 2008. About a dozen Swiss banks are under criminal investigation and more than 100 seek non-prosecution agreements from the U.S.
Nicole Navas, a Justice Department spokeswoman, said prosecutors are reviewing the motion and will respond in court. Aaron Marcu, an attorney for Weil, declined to comment on the filing.
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