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August 17, 2018

ZKB to pay $98.5m to settle US tax evasion probe

Zuercher Kantonalbank (ZKB), a Swiss cantonal bank, has agreed to pay $98.5m to the US Department of Justice (DOJ) to resolve allegations of helping US clients dodge tax obligations through undeclared bank accounts.

The settlement ends a seven-year long probe, which found the bank helping its US clients evade taxes, filing false federal tax returns with the IRS and hiding accounts from the IRS.

According to the DOJ, ZKB managed around 2,000 undeclared accounts between 2002 and 2013 for its US customers, who dodged over $39m in taxes.

Two ZKB bankers Stephan Fellmann and Christof Reist also pleaded guilty in the case.

The bank cooperated in the case but discouraged these bankers from cooperating with the US authorities.

Manhattan US attorney Geoffrey Berman said: “ZKB and two of its bankers have admitted to conspiring to assist U.S. taxpayers in evading their tax obligations.  The bank enabled taxpayers to hide accounts from the IRS and actively sought to win the business of Americans looking to evade taxes.

“After doing so, ZKB dissuaded the two bankers from cooperating with U.S. authorities, which has today resulted in a reduction in the bank’s cooperation credit.”

The Swiss bank has now agreed to assist the DOJ in offering detailed information about accounts in which US clients have a direct or indirect interest and cooperate with prosecutors in making treaty requests for data on accounts.

The bank also said that the settlement will not affect its 2018 financial results.

ZKB chairman of the board of directors Jörg Müller-Ganz said: “We are relieved that after seven years, we were able to conclude the investigation following an objective dialogue with the US authorities. The solution that has now been reached marks the end of this matter and removes any related uncertainties.

“We look forward to forging ahead with the positive development of our bank. With its solid capitalisation and strong position in the market, Zürcher Kantonalbank is well positioned for future success.”

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