Ex-Credit Suisse Banker Pleads Guilty in Tax Evasion Case

  • Bergantino admits guilt in U.S. after five years as fugitive
  • Five others from 2011 conspiracy indictment remain at large

A former Credit Suisse Group AG banker pleaded guilty to helping Americans evade taxes, admitting his role after spending the past five years as a fugitive.

Michele Bergantino, 48, was indicted with seven other people in 2011 on a charge that they helped U.S. clients hide $4 billion in assets from the Internal Revenue Service. 

Two others indicted with Bergantino -- a former Credit Suisse banker and a Swiss trust firm founder --- pleaded guilty and were sentenced last year to probation after helping the U.S. build a $2.6 billion criminal tax case against the bank. Five defendants remain fugitives. Credit Suisse’s main bank unit pleaded guilty in 2014.

Bergantino, an Italian citizen who lives in Switzerland, faces as long as five years in prison when he is sentenced in federal court in Alexandria, Virginia. In pleading guilty to conspiracy, he admitted he oversaw a portfolio of accounts -- largely held by U.S. taxpayers on the West Coast -- that grew to $700 million in assets.

“Mr. Bergantino voluntarily surrendered to the authorities,” said his attorney, Thomas Zehnle. “He accepts full responsibility for his past actions. He’s confident that the U.S. justice system will treat him fairly, and he’ll accept the court’s sentence, whatever it is.”

Like other Swiss bankers who have pleaded guilty in the U.S., he admitted he helped clients conceal assets from the IRS through offshore trusts, corporations and foundations in the names of nominee owners; took steps to help them avoid a paper trail; and helped them access their accounts through large cash withdrawals. 

He admitted that from 2002 to 2009, he visited his U.S. clients once or twice a year, hiding the true nature of his visits from authorities. He used private couriers to send client statements to the hotels where he stayed, and he used statements and business cards that didn’t carry the bank’s name or logo, according to a Justice Department statement.

“To those who have actively assisted U.S. taxpayers in using offshore accounts to evade taxes, the message is clear: staying outside the United States will provide little comfort.”

The case is U.S. v. Adami, 11-cr-00095, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Virginia (Alexandria).

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