UBS Whistle-Blower Birkenfeld Seeks Permission to Move to Europe

Bradley Birkenfeld, the former UBS AG banker who won a $104 million whistle-blower award after serving time in U.S. prison for tax conspiracy, now wants to move back to Europe before his term of probation is set to end.

Birkenfeld asked a judge to end his probation with less than a year left or modify its terms so he can leave the U.S., according to a filing in federal court in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Birkenfeld pleaded guilty in 2008 and was sentenced to 40 months in prison after divulging to U.S. authorities how UBS helped thousands of American clients avoid taxes.

“The reason is simple: As the end of his sentence approaches, Mr. Birkenfeld, who now resides in New Hampshire, seeks to return to Europe to rebuild his life,” according to the Dec. 16 filing. He wants “to establish a new home so that he can once again be a productive member of society.”

Birkenfeld exposed how UBS bankers came to the U.S. to woo rich Americans, managed $20 billion of their assets and helped them cheat the Internal Revenue Service. After his release August 2012, he won the largest individual whistle-blower award in U.S. history.

UBS paid $780 million to avoid prosecution, admitted it aided tax evasion and turned over data on 250 Swiss accounts. UBS later released information on 4,450 more accounts. Since then, more than 45,000 Americans have voluntarily disclosed offshore accounts, paying more than $6.5 billion to the U.S. Prosecutors have charged several dozen taxpayers and three dozen offshore bankers, lawyers and advisers with tax crimes.

Probation

In their Dec. 16 filing, Birkenfeld’s lawyers said he served 30 months in prison, plus a month of community confinement and three months in home confinement. His probation is due to end on Nov. 28, 2015.

The “sole blemish” on Birkenfeld’s probationary record was his arrest and conviction for driving while intoxicated in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, according to the filing. He was ordered to surrender his driver’s license for six months, and is appealing. The U.S. Probation Office “recommended that no action be taken,” according to the filing.

A U.S. Justice Department prosecutor, Mark Daly, told Birkenfeld’s lawyers that “the government does not agree with the relief sought,” according to the motion.

Justice Department spokeswoman Nicole Navas had no immediate comment on the motion, Birkenfeld attorney Gerald Greenberg had no comment beyond the papers filed.

Donations

A neurosurgeon’s son from Brookline, Massachusetts, Birkenfeld spent 15 years in Swiss banking, including five at Zurich-based UBS, the country’s largest bank. Since his release from prison, he has given six electric bicycles to the Boston Police Department.

A National Hockey League fan, Birkenfeld has also donated his luxury suite at the arena where the Boston Bruins play so that disadvantaged children could attend games, according to a letter by the Boston Bruins Foundation attached to the motion.

In a 2010 prison interview, Birkenfeld said that if he got an IRS whistle-blower award, he hoped to set up a nonprofit foundation and do charitable work in India and the Philippines, two countries where he had traveled extensively. He also said he intended to live in Europe or Asia.

“I don’t trust my government,” he said in the prison interview. “That’s why I lived in Switzerland for 15 years. How could I possibly trust our government after what I’ve been through? I have no desire to live in a country that treats its people this way.”

The case is U.S. v. Birkenfeld, 08-cr-60099, U.S. District Court, Southern District of Florida (Fort Lauderdale.).

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