International Financial Law Prof Blog

Editor: William Byrnes
Texas A&M University
School of Law

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Swiss Asset Manager Peter Amrein Pleads Guilty To Conspiring With U.S. Taxpayers To Evade Tax

Treasury-Dept.-Seal-of-the-IRSPETER AMREIN, a Swiss citizen and former asset manager at a Swiss asset management firm, pleaded guilty to conspiring with U.S. taxpayer-clients and others to help U.S. taxpayers hide millions of dollars in offshore accounts from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), and to evade U.S. taxes on the income earned in those accounts. AMREIN pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Sidney H. Stein.  

According to the allegations in the Superseding Information and the prior Indictment, as well as statements made during the plea proceeding and other documents filed in Manhattan federal court:

AMREIN worked as a client advisor at a Swiss bank (Swiss Bank No. 3) and, later, as an asset manager at a Swiss asset management firm (the Swiss Asset Management Firm). In those roles, between 1998 and 2012, AMREIN helped U.S. taxpayers evade taxes and hide millions of dollars in undeclared accounts at various Swiss banks, including Wegelin & Co., which was charged and pleaded guilty in the Southern District of New York for its conduct in conspiring with U.S. taxpayers to evade taxes. AMREIN, among other things, worked with an attorney based in Zurich, Switzerland, to establish sham foundations, which were organized under the laws of non-U.S. countries such as Liechtenstein, so that the undeclared assets of certain of AMREIN’s U.S. taxpayer-clients could be maintained in the names of these foreign foundations rather than in the clients’ own names. AMREIN did so in order to help his clients conceal their ownership of these undeclared accounts from the IRS.

In 2008, it became publicly known that UBS AG (UBS) was being investigated by United States law enforcement for helping U.S. taxpayers maintain undeclared accounts in Switzerland. Because of the investigation of UBS, one of the Swiss banks where AMREIN had opened undeclared accounts for U.S. taxpayers (Swiss Bank No. 4) informed AMREIN that it was going to close these undeclared accounts. In order to assist his clients in continuing to maintain undeclared accounts, AMREIN searched for other banks in Switzerland that, despite the public investigation of UBS, were still willing to open undeclared accounts for U.S. taxpayers. AMREIN found such a bank (Swiss Bank No. 1). Thereafter, AMREIN opened undeclared accounts for U.S. taxpayer-clients at Swiss Bank No. 1 in the name of sham foundations, and transferred the clients’ undeclared assets from Swiss Bank No. 4 to these accounts at Swiss Bank No. 1.

For some of these clients, AMREIN, with the assistance of others, helped send funds back to the United States and to other foreign jurisdictions in ways that were designed to ensure that U.S. authorities would not discover the existence of the clients’ undeclared accounts. For instance, AMREIN instructed a client advisor at Swiss Bank No. 1 (the Swiss Bank No. 1 Client Advisor) to empty one of the accounts by sending checks in amounts smaller than $9,900 to the beneficial owner of the account, i.e., the U.S. taxpayer.

On another occasion, AMREIN instructed the Swiss Bank No. 1 Client Advisor to transfer the balance of one of the accounts, which was then valued at more than $2.4 million, to another account controlled by the U.S. taxpayer in Belize City, Belize. Moreover, as late as 2011, AMREIN continued to look for other Swiss banks that were still willing to open undeclared accounts for U.S. taxpayers. For example, in June 2011, AMREIN met with a client advisor at a Swiss bank (Swiss Bank No. 2), to discuss opening undeclared accounts for U.S. taxpayer-clients at Swiss Bank No. 2.

AMREIN, 53, a Swiss citizen, pleaded guilty pursuant to a plea agreement to one count of conspiracy to defraud the IRS, to evade federal income taxes, and to file false federal income tax returns. AMREIN faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison. The statutory maximum sentence is prescribed by Congress and is provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendant will be determined by the judge. AMREIN is scheduled to be sentenced before Judge Stein on July 1, 2015.

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