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Two more Swiss banks strike deals with U.S. over tax evasion

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Two more Swiss banks will pay penalties to the United States as part of settlements that mean they will not face criminal charges for helping Americans avoid taxes, U.S. authorities said on Thursday.

SB Saanen Bank AG will pay nearly $1.4 million and Privatbank Bellerive AG will pay $57,000, the U.S. Justice Department said.

A total of 22 Swiss banks have reached deals with the department under a voluntary program set up in 2013 for 100 eligible Swiss banks to report suspected tax evasion in U.S.-related accounts. The United States aims to reach accords with all of them by the end of 2015.

Fines have varied depending on the extent of the tax-related offenses. The largest fine so far has been levied against Lugano-based BSI, which agreed to pay $211 million in March to settle with U.S. authorities.

Both Saanen Bank and Bellerive have agreed to cooperate in any related criminal or civil proceedings and show they have implemented controls to prevent misconduct, the Justice Department said.

Most of the banks that have settled with the United States knowingly signed up clients fleeing other major Swiss banks in 2008 that were being investigated for helping Americans conceal their assets and income.

The United States is still conducting criminal investigations of other banks that were excluded from the Swiss bank program, including Julius Baer and HSBC’s Swiss private bank.

In June, Julius Baer said it would book a $350 million charge against first-half results towards an expected settlement with the U.S. Justice Department over alleged tax offenses.

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