Tuesday, January 07 17:21:57
A former high-ranking UBS banker charged with helping Americans dodge taxes through secret Swiss bank accounts pleaded not guilty to tax fraud conspiracy today in federal court in Florida.
Raoul Weil, a 54-year-old Swiss citizen and former head of global wealth management at UBS, was charged five years ago with conspiring to help thousands of Americans conceal $20 billion in numbered accounts at the bank.
He disputed the charges initially. He was declared a fugitive a few months later, but then was arrested in mid-October on a warrant from Interpol while on vacation in Bologna, Italy.
Weil's appearance in federal court in Fort Lauderdale on Tuesday was his second since he was extradited from Italy last month. He was granted a $10.5 million bond, pending his arraignment at his first court hearing on Dec. 16.
Wearing a blue suit, blue tie and glasses with thick, black frames, Weil said little in court other than confirm his name and age before the not guilty plea was entered on his behalf.
"We look forward to coming back to Florida, and defend him," his lawyer, Aaron Marcu, told reporters after the brief court session. No immediate trial date was set at Tuesday's hearing.
Lawyers for UBS whistleblower Bradley Birkenfeld, the bank employee who revealed the tax fraud conspiracy to U.S. authorities in 2007, fear that Weil may be negotiating a "sweetheart deal" that would spare him a trial and ultimately shield secret account holders and other bankers from prosecution.
The lawyers, who note that Birkenfeld worked directly under Weil when he headed UBS's former cross-border banking business, have been highly critical of what they often describe as the U.S. government's failure to prosecute UBS and some of its former top executives.