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Two more Swiss banks settle with U.S. over tax evasion

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Bank Linth LLB AG and Bank Sparhafen Zurich AG will pay penalties to the United States in deals to avoid criminal charges for helping Americans avoid taxes, joining nearly a dozen other Swiss banks that have done the same.

Bank Linth will pay $4.15 million and BSZ will pay $1.81 million, the Department of Justice said on Friday.

Eleven other Swiss banks have cut similar deals with the Justice Department under a voluntary program set up in 2013, through which eligible Swiss banks could report suspected tax evasion in U.S-related accounts.

Swiss banks have come under heavy U.S. pressure in recent years to crack down on tax evasion by Americans.

Bank Linth had 126 U.S. related accounts worth $102 million in assets and BSZ retained 91 such accounts holding more than $25 million, according to prosecutors.

Bank Linth said in a statement it had already set aside money and that the settlement meant it could now “close the books” on the issue.

BSZ did not immediately able to respond to a request for comment.

In total, about 100 eligible Swiss banks signed up to the Justice Department’s program and the United States hopes to conclude settlements with them over the coming months.

Many banks that had already settled with the U.S. knowingly signed up clients fleeing other major Swiss banks in 2008, such as UBS AG, that were being investigated for helping Americans conceal their assets and income.

In 2009, UBS AG agreed to pay $780 million and last year Credit Suisse pleaded guilty to a criminal charge and was fined $2.5 billion.

The United States is still conducting criminal investigations of other banks over alleged tax offenses, including Julius Baer and HSBC’s Swiss private bank.

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