Whistle-blowing diamond smuggler = good guy!

Whistle-blowing drug smuggler grabs $100 million reward

As a whistleblower, Bradley Birkenfeld revealed that he had informed US Inland Revenue Service (IRS) officials as to how the Swiss USB bank had helped thousands of wealthy Americans illegally evade taxes – including, possibly, Mitt Romney, US presidential candidate [speculation, it seems to me].

He also claimed, through his lawyers, to have been paid $100 million for his troubles.

“His reward of $104m [£65m] reflects the case’s importance in blowing open Swiss banking secrecy laws, which have for generations helped criminals launder dirty money and allowed plutocratic foreigners to shield their fortunes from tax authorities.”[1]

The consequences

“Birkenfeld’s inside information saw UBS pay $780m to avoid criminal prosecution. With the approval of Switzerland’s parliament, following months of heated debate, the bank was also forced to hand over account information regarding 4,500 US clients”, the report continues.

“One of their number could very well have been Mitt Romney, the Republican Presidential candidate. He is known to have a Swiss bank account, along with holdings in such tax havens as the Cayman Islands. However, his campaign is controversially refusing to tax returns for years which would reveal whether he took part in the amnesty.”

Conclusions

Well, a ‘clean guy’, at last! Not quite so!

Information he handed over to authorities “saw him prosecuted for having helped clients at the firm, at which he was a tax advisor, to illegally shield assets from the authorities. He spent 30 months in prison and is currently in New Hampshire, finishing his sentence under home confinement.

“In court, Birkenfeld once admitted smuggling diamonds into the US in a tube of toothpaste on behalf of a client. He says that after realising the extent of fraud at UBS, he attempted to raise concerns with company compliance officers, but was rebuffed. That prompted him to turn informant.”

Such is the world we live in, where a self-confessed diamond smuggler is rewarded with over $100 million. I think I’ll stick to smuggling cigarettes (a joke, honestly!)

[1]: The Independent

Image source:  understory.ran.org

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