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Swiss Bank Pleads Guilty to Tax Law Violations

Switzerland’s oldest private bank on Thursday admitted to helping Americans evade United States taxes, the first time a foreign financial institution has pleaded guilty to tax law violations.

Representatives for Wegelin & Company, a Swiss bank founded in 1741, appeared in Federal District Court in Manhattan and acknowledged that for nearly a decade the firm helped dozens of wealthy American customers dodge taxes by hiding more than $1.2 billion in secret accounts.

Wegelin agreed to pay $74 million in fines, restitution and forfeiture proceeds to the United States government

Wegelin partner Mr. Bruderer said that Wegelin assisted the American clients because it believed that it would not be prosecuted in the United States because it had no offices here, and had acted in accordance with Swiss law. He also noted that the conduct was common practice in the Swiss banking industry.

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