Swiss accounts to stay secret a bit longer
MIAMI - A federal judge decided it will take months to determine if and when the Internal Revenue Service will learn the identities of 52,000 wealthy Americans who have secret accounts at Swiss bank UBS AG.
US District Judge Alan S. Gold set a July 13 hearing on the IRS lawsuit, unless an agreement is reached first. UBS claims that turning over the account names would violate Swiss privacy law and jeopardize the bank's license.
"Such violations would expose these [UBS] employees to substantial prison terms, as well as fines, penalties, and other sanctions," the UBS lawyers said in a court filing last week. "There is simply no reason to have, nor equity in having, such an expedited process here."
The IRS had sought an accelerated timetable, but Justice Department tax attorney Stuart Gibson and UBS lawyers told Gold at a brief telephone hearing yesterday they had agreed on a lengthier process.
The IRS last week asked Gold to enforce so-called John Doe summonses seeking information about the 52,000 accounts that hold an estimated $14.8 billion in assets. The lawsuit was accompanied by internal UBS documents that the IRS contends show a systematic, long-term scheme by bank employees to help wealthy Americans evade US income taxes.
The lawsuit followed an agreement in which the Justice Department would defer criminal prosecution of UBS in exchange for the identities of up to 300 US customers and payment by the bank of $780 million.