Ex-UBS banker wanted in the U.S. appears at Italian court after arrest

Reuters

By Valentina Accardo

BOLOGNA, Italy, Oct 22 (Reuters) - Raoul Weil, the formerUBS banker wanted in the United States overallegations of helping Americans dodge taxes, appeared for acourt hearing in Italy on Tuesday in the first step towardspossible extradition.

Weil, a Swiss citizen and former head of UBS's global wealthmanagement business, was arrested by Italian police in Bolognaon Saturday and held in the local Dozza jail.

Dressed in casual trousers and a blue jacket and appearingunshaven, the 53 year-old banker was escorted in handcuffs intothe court building by police officers to attend a closed-doorhearing that started at 0830 GMT.

Weil, who was accompanied by his wife and his Italianlawyers, will remain in custody in Italy until the justiceministry decides whether to extradite him to the United States,police and local judicial sources said earlier this week.

He was charged in the United States in November 2008 forconspiring to help 17,000 Americans hide assets worth $20billion in Swiss bank accounts and declared a fugitive a fewmonths later after failing to surrender to authorities.

In 2009, UBS, the world's largest wealth manager by assets,was fined $780 million and agreed to hand over the names of U.S.clients with secret Swiss bank accounts to avoid facing criminalcharges. The deal with the United States marked an historicbreak with Switzerland's tradition of bank secrecy.

Reuss Private Group, a Swiss wealth management firm whereWeil is chief executive, said on Monday the banker had beenarrested while making a private visit to Italy and disputes theU.S. charges.

Italy has in the past cooperated with the United States withthe exception of crimes that would be punished with the deathpenalty, which is banned in Italy. Under U.S. law a convictionfor tax evasion may result in fines and imprisonment.

A UBS spokesman said on Monday Weil, who became the head ofits global wealth management business in 2007 and also sat onthe bank's board, was discharged from his duties when he wasindicted.

He joined Reuss Private Group in 2010 as a consultant andbecame chief executive at the beginning of this year.

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