Swiss Ex-Banker Pleads to Helping U.S. Tax Evaders

ALEXANDRIA, Va. (AP) -

A former Swiss banker pleaded guilty Wednesday to his role in a fraud scheme that prosecutors say helped U.S. taxpayers hide as much as $3 billion in assets from the IRS.

Andreas Bachmann, 56, a Swiss citizen, is one of eight former employees of Zurich-based Credit Suisse to be charged back in 2011. He is the first to be arrested and plead guilty. All eight were living in Switzerland, which has been unwilling to extradite, but Bachmann agreed to come to the U.S. and strike a plea deal. The plea hearing was scheduled several weeks ago, and he was arrested Tuesday in Alexandria.

Bachmann faces a maximum of five years in prison under the plea deal. His attorney did not return a telephone call and email seeking comment Wednesday.

In a statement, Deputy Attorney General James Cole indicated that more cases could be moving forward in the coming months.

“Today’s plea is just the latest step in our wide-ranging investigations into Swiss banking activities and demonstrates the Department of Justice’s commitment to global enforcement against those that facilitate offshore tax evasion,” Cole said.

In court papers, Bachmann admitted traveling twice a year to the United States as an employee of a Credit Suisse subsidiary to meet with clients who maintained secret Swiss accounts as a means of avoiding U.S. taxes. He would show clients their account statements, and if they asked for a copy he would ask them, “Do you really want to keep the statement?” and suggest that keeping physical records of the account in the U.S. was a risk.

The court documents do not include a specific amount of money that Bachmann helped hide from the IRS, but said he was responsible for 25 to 30 U.S. clients.

The charges are part of a crackdown by President Barack Obama’s administration on foreign banks believed to be helping U.S. taxpayers hide assets.