TaxProf Blog

Editor: Paul L. Caron, Dean
Pepperdine University School of Law

Thursday, June 24, 2010

UBS Tax Whistleblower Asks Obama to Commute His Sentence

Bloomberg, Banker Who Blew Whistle on Secrecy Over Tax Cheats Seeks Pardon:

Bradley Birkenfeld, once a UBS AG banker who handled a $200 million investment for a billionaire client, now makes 12 cents an hour mopping floors at the federal prison in Minersville, Pennsylvania.

Sleeping in a bunk bed in a dormitory-style building with 35 other inmates is far from the reward Birkenfeld says he deserves for exposing a massive tax-evasion scandal at UBS, the biggest Swiss bank. He told U.S. authorities how UBS bankers came to the U.S. to woo rich Americans, managed $20 billion of their assets, and helped them cheat the Internal Revenue Service.

Birkenfeld, 45, has asked President Barack Obama to commute a 40-month term he began in January at Schuylkill Federal Correctional Institution for his part in the conspiracy. He is seeking payment from the IRS whistleblower program and wants the U.S. Department of Justice to punish prosecutors who wouldn’t grant him immunity before his 2008 indictment and guilty plea.

His disclosures preceded UBS’s decision to pay $780 million to avoid prosecution, admit it fostered tax evasion from 2000 to 2007, and turn over data on 250 secret accounts to the IRS. UBS later agreed to reveal data on another 4,450 accounts, a transfer upheld last week by the Swiss Parliament. For lifting the veil on Swiss bank secrecy, Birkenfeld said, he’s a hero, not a criminal.

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Binkerfeld would stand a better chance of pardon or amnesty by Obama if he were an illegal alien. Also, he hurts his chances by asking Obama to actually pay him rather than Binkerfeld promising to vote for the Democrats. Maybe Binkerfeld should form a prison union to excite Obama to give him special rights and to deliver the felon vote to the Democrats.

Posted by: Woody | Jun 25, 2010 9:15:54 AM