UBS Whistle-Blower Birkenfeld Loses Legal Bid 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, lost a bid to move back to Europe before his probation term ends.

U.S. District Judge William Zloch yesterday denied Birkenfeld’s request to let him leave the U.S. by modifying or ending his probation, which has less than a year left. The judge said he had reviewed the file in federal court in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and offered no further explanation in a one-page order.

Birkenfeld pleaded guilty in 2008 and was sentenced to 40 months in prison after telling U.S. authorities how UBS helped thousands of American clients avoid taxes. UBS paid $780 million to avoid prosecution, admitted it aided tax evasion and turned over data on thousands of Swiss accounts.

After Birkenfeld’s release in August 2012, he won the largest whistle-blower award in U.S. history. His probation will end Nov. 28, 2015, after serving 30 months in prison, a month of community confinement and three months in home confinement.

Birkenfeld’s lawyers had said he wanted to move from New Hampshire to Europe to rebuild his life and “establish a new home so that he can once again be a productive member of society.”

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, according to the motion.

In a Jan. 7 response, the Justice Department cited Birkenfeld’s conviction at trial in August. The sentence included a $620 fine and an order that he complete an impaired driver program, according to the filing.

Given that driving offense, prosecutors recommended the judge deny the motion to modify his probation.

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

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