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Swiss banks to pay $81 mln, avoid U.S. charges on aiding tax evasion

(Reuters) – Three Swiss banks will pay a total of more than $81 million to the U.S. Justice Department to avoid possible prosecution for helping Americans to evade taxes, the department said on Thursday.

The three banks, the Swiss unit of BNP Paribas SA; KBL (Switzerland) Ltd; and Bank CIC, also agreed to cooperate in any related criminal or civil proceedings, the Justice Department said.

“The BNP Paribas Group is committed to fully complying with the laws and regulations in all markets in which it is active,” a spokeswoman said. “Since 2008, the Group has proactively taken steps within its Wealth Management business to reinforce its policies related to U.S. taxpayers.”

Efforts to reach spokespeople at KBL Ltd and Bank CIC were unsuccessful outside Swiss business hours on Thursday.

The banks settled under a voluntary program the Justice Department launched in 2013 to allow Swiss banks to resolve potential criminal charges by disclosing cross-border activities that helped U.S. account holders conceal assets.

Under the program, banks also must provide detailed information on the accounts of U.S. taxpayers under investigation. Banks that were already under criminal investigation were excluded from the program.

BNP Paribas, which will pay $59.8 million of the total penalty, managed about 760 U.S.-related accounts with a peak value of about $1.2 billion assets under management since August, 2008. BNP already set aside money to cover the sum, a spokeswoman said.

During the same period, KBL maintained 277 U.S.-related accounts with a total value of more than $225 million. The bank will pay $18.8 million of the total penalty.

Bank CIC, a unit of Crédit Mutuel-CIC, had 261 U.S.-related accounts, which included about $228 million in assets under management since August, 2008. It will pay $3.3 million of the total penalty.



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