Switzerland's Oldest Bank Indicted Over US Tax Cheats
Wegelin brought down by probe
By Rob Quinn, Newser Staff
Posted Feb 3, 2012 1:23 AM CST
Updated Feb 3, 2012 3:54 AM CST
Switzerland's oldest private bank, Wegelin & Co., says it is selling most of its business to the Raiffeisen Group amid a dispute with US. authorities over tax-cheating allegations.   (AP Photo/Keystone, Gaetan Bally, File)

(Newser) – A Swiss bank older than the US has been indicted by the Justice Department for helping Americans dodge taxes. Wegelin, a 270-year-old private bank, helped some 100 wealthy Americans hide more than $1.2 billion from the IRS, according to the indictment. Clients who decided to co-operate with the investigation gave the Justice Department details about the bank's inner workings, which led to the indictment, Reuters reports.

After UBS turned over the names of thousands of American account holders, Wegelin "decided to capture for Wegelin the illegal US cross-border banking business lost by UBS, and deliberately set out to open new undeclared accounts for US taxpayer-clients," the indictment states, noting that clients were told Wegelin was safe because it had a long tradition of secrecy, and had no branches in the US. The bank, Switzerland's oldest, sold off most of its business last week, effectively breaking itself up.