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Swiss bank BSI to pay $211 mln penalty in U.S. tax program

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Swiss private bank BSI SA avoided prosecution for suspected tax-related offenses by paying a $211 million penalty, making it the first bank to reach a deal in the U.S. Department of Justice’s “Swiss Bank Program,” the department said on Monday.

The DOJ program allows banks to come clean over tax-related offenses related to undeclared accounts, provided that they are not already under investigation.

Under the terms of the non-prosecution agreement signed on Monday, BSI agreed to cooperate in any related criminal or civil proceedings and put better controls in place, the DOJ said.

BSI declined to comment on Monday.

The bank acknowledged that it issued credit or debit cards to U.S. clients without the names visible on the card to help them keep their identities secret, the DOJ said.

It also said the bank helped U.S. clients create “sham corporations” and trusts that masked their identities.

BSI disclosed instances where U.S. clients would tell their bankers that their “gas tank is running empty” as coded language to indicate that they needed more cash on their cards, the DOJ said.

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