Ex-Credit Suisse banker pleads guilty to aiding tax evasion

Added 23rd June 2016

A former Credit Suisse banker, who has been on the run for five years, pleaded guilty in a US federal court on Wednesday to helping Americans evade paying tax.

Ex-Credit Suisse banker pleads guilty to aiding tax evasion

Michele Bergantino was one of seven people indicted in 2011 on charges that they helped US clients hide $4bn (£2.7bn, €3.5bn) in assets from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

An Italian citizen living in Switzerland, Bergantino pleaded guilty to assisting US taxpayers conceal foreign accounts.

He faces up to five years in prison plus penalties and restitution.

The case

Bergantino was a private banker who provided banking and investment advice to US customers who maintained undeclared bank accounts in Switzerland. At various times he travelled to the US to meet with clients to assist them in setting up and accessing undeclared bank accounts.

On 21 July 2011, a US grand jury charged Bergantino and four fellow Credit Suisse employees; Markus Walder, Marco Adami, Susanne Meier, and Roger Schaerer, with conspiring for the purpose of impeding, impairing, obstructing and defeating the lawful government functions of the IRS.

“Mr Bergantino is now the third fugitive to come to the United States and plead guilty to charges in this case.”

Two further co-defendants, Andreas Bachmann and Josef Dörig, pleaded guilty in 2014 and were sentenced in March 2015. They were given probation after helping the US build a criminal tax case against the bank.

As a result, Credit Suisse pleaded guilty in May 2014 to conspiring to aid and assist taxpayers in filing false returns and was sentenced in November 2014 to pay $2.6bn in fines and restitution.  

Admission of guilt

Bergantino admitted that from 2002 to 2009, while working as a relationship manager for Credit Suisse in Switzerland, he participated in a wide-ranging conspiracy to aid and assist US taxpayers in evading their income taxes by concealing assets and income in secret Swiss bank accounts. 

He oversaw a portfolio of accounts, largely owned by US taxpayers residing on the west coast, which grew to approximately $700m of assets under management. Bergantino admitted that the tax loss associated with his criminal conduct was more than $1.5m but less than or equal to $3.5m.  

Among the steps taken by Bergantino to assist clients in hiding their Swiss accounts were: 

  • assuring them that Swiss bank secrecy laws would prevent Credit Suisse from disclosing their undeclared accounts to US law enforcement;
  • discussing business with clients only when they travelled to Zurich to meet him;
  • structuring withdrawals from their undeclared accounts by sending multiple checks, each in amounts below $10,000, to clients in the United States;
  • facilitating the withdrawal of large sums of cash by US customers from their Credit Suisse accounts at Credit Suisse offices in the Bahamas, in Switzerland, particularly the Credit Suisse branch at the Zurich airport, and at a financial institution in the United Kingdom;
  • holding clients’ mail from delivery to the United States;
  • issuing withdrawal checks from Credit Suisse’s correspondent bank in the United States; and
  • taking actions to remove evidence of a US client’s control over an account because the US client intended to file a false and fraudulent income tax return. 

Moreover, Bergantino understood... (continued on the next page)

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About Author

Kirsten Hastings

Senior Reporter

Kirsten is a senior reporter for International Adviser, covering global news stories about the financial services industry. She joined Last Word Media in October 2015 after two years working as a reporter covering the staffing and recruitment industry. Kirsten has a Masters in Financial Journalism from the University of Stirling. 

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