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Liechtenstein bank to pay $23.8M in NY tax case

Larry Neumeister, Associated Press

NEW YORK (AP) -- A Liechtenstein bank will pay $23.8 million to resolve a probe into its use of undeclared accounts to help hundreds of U.S. taxpayers dodge taxes in the United States over a 10-year period, authorities announced Tuesday.

U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara in Manhattan and Liechtensteinische Landesbank AG, located in Vaduz, announced the agreement, saying the bank will forfeit $16.3 million, representing revenue it earned for maintaining the undeclared accounts, and will pay $7.5 million in restitution to the Internal Revenue Service.

Bharara said the bank, also known as LLB Vaduz, will not be criminally prosecuted for opening and maintaining the accounts from 2001 through 2011 even though it helped a significant number of U.S. taxpayers evade their tax obligations and file false federal tax returns. He said the non-prosecution agreement demonstrates the "unprecedented nature of the bank's cooperation."

He noted that the bank in 2008 voluntarily implemented a number of measures to stop helping undeclared U.S. taxpayers in evading taxes even before the IRS and federal prosecutors began looking into it.

IRS official Richard Weber said the parliament of Liechtenstein, an alpine country between Switzerland and Austria, also changed tax laws to make it easier to identify non-compliant U.S. taxpayers to the United States.

Since then, Liechtenstein has transferred more than 200 files of U.S. taxpayers to the U.S. Department of Justice, according to a statement from Bharara's office.

The government said the bank held more than $340 million in undeclared assets on behalf of U.S. taxpayers in more than 900 accounts in 2006.

The bank said that the deal resulted from "intensive negotiations."

It noted that "U.S. authorities explicitly undertake not to impose a fine or penalty on LLB Vaduz beyond the payments for gross profit and lost tax revenue. What is more, they acknowledge that the bank voluntarily took measures even before the investigations began."