U.S. Senators Carl Levin and John McCain urged the Justice Department to seek extradition of about 30 Swiss bankers and others who are charged with enabling offshore tax evasion and haven’t appeared in federal courts.
The department should “at least attempt to use” powers under an extradition treaty with the Swiss, Levin and McCain wrote yesterday to Deputy Attorney General James Cole. Levin, a Michigan Democrat, and McCain, an Arizona Republican, lead the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, which issued a report last month criticizing the Justice Department’s enforcement efforts involving Swiss banks, including Credit Suisse Group AG.
Since 2009, more than 70 taxpayers and about three dozen bankers, lawyers and advisers have been charged in a crackdown on offshore tax evasion. In testimony to the subcommittee on Feb. 26, Cole said the department hasn’t sought extradition from Switzerland of those indicted by U.S. grand juries. Switzerland doesn’t consider tax evasion a crime.
The extradition treaty “does not bar the extradition of Swiss nationals who assisted U.S. nationals in the commission of criminal tax evasion, and it is time to test the Swiss government’s professed willingness to cooperate with international tax enforcement efforts,” Levin and McCain wrote.
Emily Pierce, a Justice Department spokeswoman, said in response to the letter: “We have limited resources, and we are focused on using our most effective tools.”
Salome Ramseier, a spokeswoman for the Swiss embassy in Washington, declined to comment on the letter.
Credit Suisse, the second-biggest Swiss bank, is the largest of 14 Swiss banks under criminal investigation in the U.S. Seven current and former bankers were indicted in 2011 in federal court in Alexandria, Virginia. One of those bankers, Andreas Bachmann, pleaded guilty on March 12.
On Feb. 26, Martin Lack became the fourth former banker at UBS AG, the largest Swiss bank, to plead guilty to aiding wealthy Americans evade taxes.
Raoul Weil, a former UBS banker, was released on $10.5 million bail in December after appearing in a Florida courtroom to face a 2008 indictment. Weil, who was arrested Oct. 19 after checking into a hotel in Bologna, Italy, waived extradition. Edgar Paltzer, a Swiss lawyer, pleaded guilty in New York on Aug. 16.
Kathryn Keneally, an assistant attorney general in the Justice Department’s tax division, spoke yesterday at a conference in Washington. She was asked whether the recent guilty pleas of Swiss bankers represent a new trend.
“I would strongly suggest that what you’ve seen in the last couple of weeks is not a recent trend,” Keneally said at the American Bar Association conference. “Things don’t happen overnight.”