Swiss banks fined for helping U.S. citizens evade taxes

Three Swiss banks, including a unit of France's Crédit Agricole SA, will pay a total of more than $130 million US to the U.S. Justice Department to avoid possible prosecution for helping Americans evade taxes, the department said on Tuesday.

Crédit Agricole, Dreyfus Sons, Baumann avoid criminal charges after hiding assets from IRS

Crédit Agricole managed about 954 U.S.-related accounts worth more than $1.8 billion since August 2008, according to the U.S. Justice Department. (Reuters)

Three Swiss banks, including a unit of France's Crédit Agricole SA, will pay a total of more than $130 million US to the U.S. Justice Department to avoid possible prosecution for helping Americans evade taxes, the department said on Tuesday.

The Zurich-based unit of Crédit Agricole will pay $99.2 million, the largest share of the total penalty. The $130 million sum also includes a $24.2 million from Dreyfus Sons & Co Ltd, and $7.7 million from Baumann & Cie, Banquiers, both in Basel, Switzerland.

Spokespeople for the three banks could not be immediately reached for comment outside of Swiss business hours on Tuesday.

The banks settled under a voluntary program the Justice Department launched in 2013 to allow Swiss banks to resolve potential criminal charges by disclosing cross-border activities that helped U.S. account holders conceal assets. Under the program, banks also must provide detailed information on the accounts of U.S. taxpayers under investigation.

Accounts for U.S. citizens

Banks that were already under criminal investigation were excluded from the program.

Crédit Agricole managed about 954 U.S.-related accounts worth more than $1.8 billion since August 2008, the Justice Department said. Its conduct included transferring the assets of some U.S.-related accounts "in ways that concealed the U.S. connection to those accounts," the Justice Department said.

For example, some U.S. taxpayers were able to fully deplete assets from accounts that they concealed from the IRS by making multiple cash withdrawals or reloading pre-paid cash cards.

Dreyfus held 855 U.S.-related accounts since August 2008, worth about $1.76 billion, while Baumann & Cie held 167 such accounts, worth about $514.1 million, the Justice Department said. Practices at both banks included setting up overseas entities, including in Panama, to hold client funds and conceal the owners' true identities from U.S. tax authorities.

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