Official hails program to track secret Swiss bank funds
A Justice Department official on Friday hailed a U.S. government program that’s helping tax authorities finally track criminal activity around the world.
At issue is the Swiss Bank program, which has helped authorities follow funds moved from Swiss accounts to around the world.
“A lot of the U.S. account holders in Swiss banks went to other Swiss banks and then went outside of Switzerland,” Caroline D. Ciraolo, principal deputy assistant attorney general in Justice’s tax division, said Friday at a panel at the American Bar Association Taxation Section and Tax Executives Institute conference in Washington.
“We’re following the money to jurisdictions across the globe.”
Switzerland has long been a popular destination for financial criminals committing activities such as tax evasion and money laundering, because of the country’s stringent bank secrecy laws.
In 2013, the department established the Swiss Bank program to allow Swiss financial institutions to reduce potential criminal liabilities if tax authorities find they are tied to questionable U.S. accounts holders.
According to the Justice Department’s website, the program has 80 participating banks and 78 non-prosecution agreements.
Under the program, a Swiss bank must provide information detailing activities in a questionable U.S.-related account. That could include the locations of other financial institutions that made a transaction into the account. The detailed information is dubbed a “lever list,” and allows the Justice Department to follow the money beyond Switzerland.
“The lever list is an extremely important part of this program,” Ciraolo said.
“We are using this information to follow the money and using data from other sources outside the Swiss bank program to follow up on these matters to identify potential targets … and pursue cases,” Ciraolo said.
Ciraolo could not comment on the exact locations, but moderator Scott D. Michel of Caplin & Drysdale identified possible countries based on experience.
Michel said there were cases where people moved money to Israel, Singapore, Hong Kong as well as countries in Europe, such as Germany and France.