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Wegelin & Co. Must Forfeit $16 Million, U.S. Judge Rules

Wegelin & Co., the 270-year-old Swiss bank charged with helping U.S. taxpayers hide more than $1.2 billion from the Internal Revenue Service, was ordered by a U.S. judge to forfeit $16 million.

U.S. District Judge Laura Taylor Swain in Manhattan yesterday entered a default judgment against Wegelin, allowing the government to take the money in Wegelin’s correspondent account in the U.S., held at UBS AG in Stamford, Connecticut.

Wegelin, based in St. Gallen, Switzerland, and three bankers at its Zurich branch were indicted in February on charges of conspiring with clients to evade U.S. taxes. Prosecutors called Wegelin a “fugitive” after the bank declined to send a lawyer or other representative to a court hearing in the case.

Prosecutors claimed that Wegelin and at least two other Swiss banks used the UBS account to launder money deposited by U.S. taxpayers to help them avoid detection by the government. Wegelin didn’t take any action to challenge the government’s claim to the money, prosecutors from the office of Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said yesterday in a statement.

Albena Bjorck, a spokeswoman for Wegelin, didn’t immediately respond to an e-mail seeking comment yesterday after regular business hours in Switzerland.

The case is U.S. v. All Funds on Deposit at UBS AG (UBSN), Account No. 101-WA-358967-000, Held in the Name of Wegelin & Co., 12-cv-00836, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).

To contact the reporter on this story: Bob Van Voris in Manhattan federal court rvanvoris@bloomberg.net.

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

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