Update: Swiss officials investigate bribery charges; US judge to hear both parties in UBS case

Update 15:40  Bern, Switzerland (GenevaLunch) – Swiss authorities are investigating charges by a US man, who has pleaded guilty to tax evasion in the US, that a Swiss government official was bribed to provide his lawyer with information on the UBS court case. The information purportedly indicated, incorrectly, that his name was not among the 250 that UBS would eventually gave to  IRS tax authorities in the US.

Reuters notes that bribery is extremely rare in Switzerland and the accusations have prompted concern in Bern, the capital, and among banking circles. Transparency International in its latest (2008) bribe payers’ index, puts Switzerland near the top of the list of relatively corruption-clean countries.

Earlier in the day 29 July Swiss media  carried a report from wire service ATS that Alan Gold, the judge in the UBS bank case in the US, has scheduled a meeting by telephone Wednesday with the US Justice Department and Switzerland, to clarify progress being made towards an out of court settlement. The two parties to the case were encouraged by the judge 13 July to explore a settlement in the case where the IRS tax authority is demanding the names of 52,000 holders of UBS bank accounts.

In related news:

  • a UBS client in the US, Jeffrey Chernick of New York, Tuesday 28 July pleaded guilty to fiscal fraud, saying that a Swiss lawyer had talked him out of turning himself in and paying back taxes in October 2008. The lawyer, according to Chernick’s court statement, assured him that a Swiss government official said his name was not on a list that would be given by the bank to the IRS. The attorney told Chernick the government official was paid CHF45,000 for the information. Chernick is the third person to plead guilty to tax evasion charges, from the group of 250 whose names were given to the IRS in February. Chicago Tribune and RSR, Fre
  • former head of the UBS wealth management unit in the US, Joseph Grano, says that in early 2008, before the bank’s problems with the IRS were public, he wrote to the bank’s then-chairman and president, Marcel Ospel and Marcel Rohner, suggesting they spin off the unit, but they never replied. Bloomberg