Bradley Birkenfeld, a former manager at Switzerland’s second-largest bank and one of the biggest whistleblowers in U.S. history, said he believes there was a special interest cover-up by key officials of the Obama administration.
Birkenfeld, who years ago made a series of disclosures about American clients of UBS Group AG who evaded hundreds of millions of dollars in taxes in the United States thanks to Swiss bank secrecy arrangements, told The Epoch Times’ Joshua Philipp in an interview that members of the Obama administration cut a deal with UBS that led to the bank paying a settlement of $780 million and only having to divulge the names of around 4,700 out of some 19,000 tax evaders.
He claimed that then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was “criminally complicit” for her actions in brokering an agreement between Swiss authorities and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) in the case against UBS, which led to a deferred prosecution agreement on charges of criminal fraud.
“Not only was Hillary Clinton criminally complicit, she… why would the Secretary of State be involved in an international criminal investigation? That’s your first question. The second question is, when there were 19,000 accounts that I handed over to the government, why did Hillary Clinton only settle for 4,700 accounts? That’s a 75 percent failure rate,” Birkenfeld said.
In the case, UBS faced the choice to either violate Swiss bank secrecy laws by handing over the names of its clients or face criminal charges in U.S. federal court that could have led UBS to lose its ability to conduct business in the United States. The Clinton-mediated deal, while it saw UBS pay hundreds of millions in settlement, effectively prevented the IRS from gaining access to around three-quarters of the illicit, tax-evading offshore accounts.
In a separate interview, Birkenfeld called it a sweetheart deal for UBS, as the around $780 million it paid was around a billion less than its profits from the illicit accounts.
According to a 2009 U.S. Department of Justice (DoJ) press release that discussed the details of the UBS deferred prosecution agreement, UBS allegedly did more than permit wealthy Americans to stash billions in tax evading offshore accounts. The DOJ claimed Swiss bankers traveled to the United States 3,800 times to discuss their clients’ Swiss bank accounts and “used encrypted laptops and other counter-surveillance techniques to help prevent the detection of their marketing efforts and the identities and offshore assets of their U.S. clients.”
The DOJ also said that “clients of the cross-border business in turn filed false tax returns which omitted the income earned on their Swiss bank accounts and failed to disclose the existence of those accounts to the IRS.”
“Under the deferred prosecution agreement, UBS has also agreed to expeditiously exit the business of providing banking services to United States clients with undeclared accounts. As part of the deferred prosecution agreement, UBS has further agreed to pay $780 million in fines, penalties, interest and restitution,” DOJ said.
The Wall Street Journal reported that, following the settlement, UBS increased its previous $60,000 in donations to the Clinton Foundation tenfold. The report also said that UBS later paid former president Bill Clinton $1.5 million to take part in a series of question-and-answer sessions with UBS Wealth Management Chief Executive Bob McCann.
Birkenfeld claimed that, by “not fining UBS properly,” Clinton “cheated 350 million Americans,” calling it “the quintessential crime of the century.”