Oldest Swiss Bank Calling It Quits After US Fine
Wegelin will pay $57.8M in fines
By Matt Cantor,  Newser User
Posted Jan 4, 2013 3:45 AM CST
In this Jan. 27, 2012 file photo, the headquarters of the bank Wegelin und Co, is photographed in St. Gallen, Switzerland.   (AP Photo/Keysttone/Ennio Leanza,File)

(Newser) – After more than two centuries in business, a Swiss bank is closing down following fines for helping American tax dodgers. Wegelin, the country's oldest bank, pleaded guilty to tax evasion charges and will pay $57.8 million in fines. After that, the bank founded in 1741 says it "will cease to operate as a bank." Executives admitted they had helped more than 100 Americans avoid taxation on $1.2 billion; it's the first foreign bank to plead guilty to such charges, the BBC notes.

Wegelin "willfully and aggressively jumped in to fill a void that was left when other Swiss banks abandoned the practice due to pressure from US law enforcement," says a US attorney, calling it a "watershed moment" in the fight against tax evasion. Executives had initially skipped court following an indictment in February, prompting the bank to be declared a fugitive from justice. Charges remain against three of the company's bankers.