Ex-UBS Banker Charged With Helping Customers Hide Funds in Swiss Accounts

Former UBS AG (UBS) banker Gian Gisler was indicted on charges that he conspired to help at least 38 U.S. clients use Swiss banks to hide more than $215 million from the Internal Revenue Service.

Gisler, 45, aided clients using sham entities to hide assets in undeclared accounts, including one valued at $43.3 million, another worth $42.7 million and a third with $19.7 million, according to an indictment in federal court in Manhattan.

“From the mid-1990s through at least 2010, Gisler allegedly conspired with various U.S. taxpayers and others to ensure that his clients could hide their Swiss bank accounts and the income they generated from the IRS,” according to a statement by U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara.

Gisler worked at UBS from the mid-1990s until 2008, when a U.S. probe of the bank intensified. UBS, the largest Swiss bank, was charged in 2009 with helping Americans evade taxes. The bank avoided prosecution by paying $780 million, admitting it helped Americans evade taxes and turning over data on 250 secret accounts. It later handed over data on another 4,450 accounts.

After 2008, Gisler worked at a Swiss asset management firm, helping to move accounts of his U.S. clients from UBS to other Swiss banks, according to the indictment.

In mid-2009, that firm began to stop helping U.S. taxpayers keep accounts hidden from the IRS, “which again made it, as a practical matter, impossible for Gisler to conduct his usual business of assisting U.S. taxpayers in maintaining undeclared accounts,” according to the indictment.

Accounts Transferred

He then joined a second asset-management firm, transferring his client accounts to help keep those assets undeclared, according to the indictment.

In the past three years, more than two dozen UBS clients have been charged with tax crimes, as well as several bankers and financial advisers. On Aug. 2, former UBS banker Martin Lack was charged with conspiring to help wealthy Americans evade taxes by hiding accounts in a smaller Swiss regional bank.

Since 2009, more than 19,000 U.S. taxpayers avoided prosecution by disclosing their accounts to the IRS. In doing so, taxpayers had to identify their offshore accounts, bankers and advisers, as well as how they moved their money. More than 200 taxpayers have been questioned by prosecutors building new cases.

‘Undeclared Accounts’

The indictment refers to four Swiss banks and a smaller Swiss cantonal bank where Gisler “managed accounts and/or arranged for undeclared accounts to be opened and held.”

It also provides details on the cases of five U.S. clients, including a New Jersey couple that held UBS accounts for three decades. Gisler began working as an adviser to them in 2004 or 2005, according to the indictment. In 2008, he wrote to them, saying the bank would no longer protect them.

“I have known you and your family for a long time,” he wrote, according to the indictment. “I am here to help. But, of course, only if you are willing to accept my help!”

In late 2008, the couple traveled to Zurich, where they met Gisler, and he transferred their accounts from UBS to another Swiss bank, according to the indictment. The new bankers gave them a secret code to use when making contact.

The case is U.S. v. Gisler, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).

To contact the reporter on this story: David Voreacos in Newark, New Jersey, at dvoreacos@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at mhytha@bloomberg.net.

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