A former banker working at Credit Suisse in Switzerland was sentenced after pleading guilty to conspiring to defraud the United States in Virginia. Susanne Rüegg Meier, formerly a manager at the bank, helped numerous Americans conceal millions of dollars in offshore accounts, allowing them to evade their tax responsibilities. The scheme was wide-ranging and reportedly resulted in the loss of millions in tax revenues for the U.S.
Rüegg Meier was sentenced on Sept. 8. She was facing prison time for her crimes, but a Virginia federal judge spared her any time behind bars. However, she does face significant fines of $30,000.
Meier, a Swiss citizen, was first indicted on the charges six years ago, in 2011. The U.S. government took action against her as part of a broader crackdown on U.S. citizens evading taxes using offshore accounts. The U.S. government specifically probed Credit Suisse. As a result, the U.S. levied charges against a number of the bank’s employees for their role in facilitating tax evasion. Credit Suisse settled with the U.S. government for a staggering $2.6 billion in 2014. As part of the settlement, the bank was also required to plead guilty to “conspiring to aid and assist taxpayers in filing false returns.”
Meier worked for Credit Suisse in Zurich between 2002 and 2011. She was responsible for around 150 clients’ accounts – virtually all of whom were U.S. citizens. She also oversaw the servicing of somewhere between 1,000 and 1,500 accounts, many of which also belonged to U.S. citizens. The U.S. government reported that all of the accounts under management had a total value of around $400 million.
When Credit Suisse closed the accounts of U.S. citizens in 2008, Meier reportedly counseled American clients on how to ensure their assets remained concealed from the U.S. government. She employed a range of techniques to do so, including helping clients hide their ownership and control of foreign accounts by using complex structures often taking the form of trusts, foundations, and foreign partnerships.
“Rüegg Meier assisted many U.S. clients in utilizing their Credit Suisse accounts to evade their U.S. income taxes and to facilitate concealment of their undeclared financial accounts from the U.S. Department of the Treasury and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS),” the United States Department of Justice said in a press release.
It is estimated that because of her actions, the U.S. government lost somewhere between $3.5 million and $9.5 million in tax revenue.
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