This is a companion to the earlier post I wrote suggesting why Swiss banks should NOT join the OVDP program for Swiss banks. In this post I argue that individuals shouldn’t join OVDP for people. At the moment that means that nobody should join OVDP.
I have written a number of posts about the OVDP program for Swiss banks. The banks should stay away from it. But what does it mean for Americans in Switzerland? The answer is that they are being asked to prove that they are U.S. tax compliant. Remember that proof has nothing to do with proof.
Two months ago, Wegelin pleaded guilty, even though it had “little to gain” by doing so, it said in court documents. Wegelin said it was seeking “closure.” An attorney for Wegelin declined to comment.
Legal experts said the U.S.’s tactics may offer a blueprint for future actions against foreign banks. Assistant U.S. Attorney Daniel Levy wrote in a sentencing memo that the prosecution of Wegelin would send “a strong message to those who would believe that, without a physical presence in the U.S., they cannot be reached by U.S. law enforcement.”
“Americans who still have these undeclared accounts need to realize the world is shrinking,” Jeffrey Neiman, a former assistant U.S. attorney, said in an interview. He prosecuted UBS, UBSN.VX -0.31% the Swiss bank, for offenses similar to Wegelin’s.
But the legal theories the U.S. used in prosecuting Wegelin haven’t been tested under these specific circumstances. Had Wegelin gone to trial, legal experts said, it could have argued that it had no criminal intent because it didn’t believe it was responsible for adhering to U.S. laws. In Thursday’s court filing, Wegelin said it went to great lengths to attempt to comply with U.S. laws and that it didn’t know it would be punished for “what it was legally entitled to do under Swiss law.” It added: “Swiss banking privacy and its potential for concealing tax evasion by U.S. persons has never been a secret.”