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The Swiss bank UBS and United States federal prosecutors sought on Sunday to delay a hearing scheduled for Monday so the two sides could try to settle their closely watched dispute over the release of names of wealthy American clients of the bank who are suspected of offshore tax evasion.
But the postponement request, made in a joint legal filing in a federal court in Florida, came amid fresh threats by the Justice Department that it might impose financial sanctions on UBS and possibly indict the bank should it continue to refuse to disclose the names if required to do so by a judge.
â€œUBS has not yet faced all the consequences of its illegal conduct in the United States,â€ said a Justice Department filing in the case on Sunday.
The two sides are scheduled to square off on Monday in front of Judge Alan S. Gold of Federal District Court in Miami. The joint filing asked Judge Gold to delay the hearing and reschedule it for Aug. 3 if a settlement was not reached by then. Judge Gold is to decide on the postponement early Monday.
The dispute between UBS and the United States has escalated into a diplomatic drama and has threatened to pierce the veil of Swiss financial secrecy. UBS and the Swiss government have said they will not disclose client names, even if ordered by a judge, because doing so would violate Swiss laws governing financial secrecy and subject UBS executives to prosecution in Switzerland.
In February, the Internal Revenue Service, backed by the Justice Department, sued UBS, the worldâ€™s largest private bank and a pillar of the Swiss economy, to force it to disclose the names of 52,000 wealthy American clients suspected of tax evasion through UBSâ€™s offshore private banking division.
The civil lawsuit came a day after UBS averted indictment by agreeing to pay $780 million to settle criminal accusations that it had defrauded the I.R.S. by allowing American clients to evade taxes by hiding billions of dollars in income offshore.
The Justice Department also increased its pressure on UBS on Sunday, saying in a separate filing that it would consider imposing unspecified monetary sanctions on the bank if it failed to turn over the names upon a judgeâ€™s order.
In the same memorandum, the Justice Department said failure to comply with an order to release the names might put the bank in breach of its $780 million settlement â€” a breach that could pave the way for prosecutors to indict UBS.
So looks like the pressure on The Swiss banks is heating up. The Feds are obviously playing this one very safe and quiet probably because of the diplomatic issues. Not to mention how many wealthy politicians and donors could easily get caught up in this. I think it's pretty impressive that they're trying at all considering the power of the banks and the amount of wealth involved. The diplomatic issues involved are pretty thorny too. the Swiss are claiming enforcing the release of names in the US could implicate Swiss execs for breaking their banking laws.
Still I think if UBS is pushing their services in the Us as a tax evasion method they should be punished under US laws. Thoughts on how this will play out?