Switzerland’s Bank Frey Suspends Executive After U.S. Indictment

Bank Frey & Co. said it relieved Stefan Buck of company duties after the U.S. charged the executive and a Swiss lawyer with helping American clients hide millions of dollars in offshore accounts.

“Stefan Buck has been suspended from his duties as head of private banking and member of the executive board in order to give him the time required to defend himself,” Zurich-based Bank Frey said today in a statement on its website. “This step is by no means to be misconstrued as a sign that Bank Frey considers Stefan Buck to be guilty of the accusations,” the firm said, adding it will support Buck during the proceedings.

Buck and Edgar Paltzer, the lawyer, opened and managed undeclared accounts on behalf of U.S. taxpayers at Swiss banks, according to an indictment released April 16 in federal court in New York. While the indictment and Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara didn’t identify either man’s employer, Bank Frey has confirmed it was the “Bank No. 1” referred to in the indictment and that Buck was the head of private banking and an executive board member.

The U.S. is still probing at least 11 Swiss financial firms on suspicions they helped Americans hide money from the Internal Revenue Service in a crackdown that’s led prosecutors to charge at least 88 people since 2008, including more than two dozen bankers, lawyers and advisers.

UBS AG (UBSN), the largest Swiss bank, avoided prosecution in 2009 by paying $780 million, admitting it fostered tax evasion and handing over data on thousands of clients. Wegelin & Co., the oldest Swiss private bank, pleaded guilty in Manhattan in January to conspiring to help hide more than $1.2 billion in assets from the IRS while opening undeclared accounts for at least 70 U.S. taxpayers who were former UBS clients.

To contact the reporter on this story: Giles Broom in Geneva at gbroom@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Frank Connelly at fconnelly@bloomberg.net

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