US authorities promise no let up in their battle against the tax dodgers

THE US government expects to probe thousands more cases of wealthy individuals dodging taxes through offshore bank accounts, on top of the high profile case against UBS, a US tax attorney said yesterday.

“We expect over the next couple of years, in addition to the UBS cases, to have somewhere between 4,000 and 7,000 more cases coming to us. These are from banks and governments cooperating,” said Kevin Downing, a senior tax attorney of the US Department of Justice, in a lecture in Singapore.

Some private banking clients are choosing to take cash from Swiss accounts and carry it by hand back to the US, to avoid an electronic trail, only to be caught by US law enforcement officers and penalised for tax evasion and illegal smuggling of money into the country, Downing said.

“When they go in and close their accounts, they are picking up brand new $100 bills ... that are coming in $100,000 shrink-wrapped bundles. Guess what? We can trace that money,” he said, adding such cash would be forfeited.

Singapore was one stop in a tour of Asian cities also including Hong Kong, Beijing and Shanghai by Downing and his US Justice Department team. The tour featured meetings with financial and tax regulatory bodies and bankers discussing cross-border tax prosecutions.

About 15,000 Americans with offshore accounts came clean under an amnesty programme last year.