Thursday, February 19, 2009

End of an era

It seems there are now less and less places to secretly hide away your money from the prying eyes of government. Today Swiss bank UBS is set to open it's books and let the US take a peek at all the tax cheats squirreling their acorns away overseas in the hopes that the legendary Swiss banking system that was good enough for the Nazis and African warlords was good enough for a mid management tax dodger from Merrill Lynch. What will we find? Mengele's safety deposit box, Amelia Earhart's checking account, Bigfoot's home loan info? No, probably just boring info about boring US tax cheats. No Nazis.
In the hush-hush world of Swiss banking, the unthinkable is happening: secrets are spilling into the open.

UBS, the largest bank in Switzerland, agreed on Wednesday to divulge the names of well-heeled Americans whom the authorities suspect of using offshore accounts at the bank to evade taxes. The bank admitted conspiring to defraud the Internal Revenue Service and agreed to pay $780 million to settle a sweeping federal investigation into its activities.

It is unclear how many of its clients’ names UBS will divulge. Federal prosecutors have been examining about 19,000 accounts at the bank, but UBS ultimately may disclose the identities of only a few hundred customers.
Nice as our government is, we gave UBS a $220 million break on the penalties and back taxes they had to pay, what with the recession and all. As to why they turned over all this information, it seems the executives of UBS had an aversion to indictment and prison. In prison, bankers are currency. What is of note is that this fine is only covers the last seven years, from 2000-2007, so really, they're getting off light.

Among the charges that UBS is admitting to is that they encouraged the falsification or destruction of records, hiding money, jewelry, and art in safe deposit boxes, and the use Swiss credit cards so the IRS couldn't track purchases. Of note is that Swiss law doesn't actually recognize tax evasion as a crime, but as a necessary skill our financial betters have to engage in because they have earned it. As God intended. So sorry if you had hopes of hording your cash away from the government or soon to be ex-spouse, times are tough and the Swiss had to cut a deal. I'm sure you can find another crooked countries banking system. Just throw a dart at the map of the Caribbean and join your dirty money with your corporation's dirty money and shell companies.

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