Switzerland’s largest bank UBS AG has agreed to pay $780 million and disclose the names of some secret account holders to avoid prosecution US authorities. The authorities had accused and were pursuing criminal fraud charges that it assisted rich Americans to evade taxes. UBS has admitted to helping US taxpayers hide accounts from the Internal Revenue Services.
“UBS sincerely regrets the compliance failures in its US cross-border business that have been identified by the various government investigations in Switzerland and the US, as well as our own internal review,” stated Peter Kurer, Chairman of UBS AG, in a release. Client confidentiality was never designed to protect fraudulent acts, he added.
The present deal marks a penetration in the veil of Swiss bank secrecy.
UBS has had its share of trouble in India. Hasan Ali Khan, a controversial businessman alleged for money laundering by Indian government, reportedly had $8 billion in his accounts at UBS. The Swiss bank had refused to co-operate at that time, maintaining its secrecy. Its reluctance to help Indian investigators had led to delays in getting banking license in India, which it finally got in February 2008.