Rich Americans who hide their wealth in foreign shelters to avoid U.S. taxes have been nailed repeatedly by the Obama administration. Prosecutions keep piling up a rogues gallery of the guilty.
Switzerland's largest bank, UBS AG, paid a whopping $780 million fine for helping U.S. evaders, and also revealed the names of 4,500 clients.
Switzerland's oldest bank, Wegelin & Co., just paid $75 million in fines and forfeitures for helping affluent Americans hide $1.2 billion.
So far, IRS has collected more than $5 billion from 35,000 Americans who escaped prosecution by voluntarily revealing their money diversions and paying back taxes plus a 27.5 percent added penalty. Many others didn't take advantage of the amnesty program, and presumably will be indicted.
Last month, tycoon Raymond Lane, a member of West Virginia University's board of governors, agreed to pay $100 million back taxes on income that was diverted into a tax-avoidance scheme handled by Germany's giant Deutsche Bank. The foreign bank previously agreed to pay a $553 million U.S. penalty for helping 2,100 wealthy Americans elude $6.9 billion in taxes.
The shady realm of overseas caches became an issue in last year's presidential election, because Republican Mitt Romney admitted he had $3 million in Switzerland, and other sums in the Cayman Islands.
"Mitt has so little economic patriotism that even his money needs a passport," Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland scoffed. "It summers on the beaches of the Cayman Islands and winters on the slopes of the Swiss Alps."
Last week, a McClatchy syndicate report analyzed stacks of documents made public by the Wegelin prosecution. One affidavit told of an evader who sent a 5-year-old child on a Brooklyn street to hand over a paper bag containing $150,000 in secret money. Another described a rich Florida woman who put $2.3 million into a Swiss bank, and could access it only by traveling to the Caribbean island of Aruba. Another said a California fatcat sent his son to Switzerland to move $7.1 million from one bank to another.
Previously, a shady UBS banker, Bradley Birkenfeld, was sent to prison for helping tax-avoidance -- then, bizarrely, he was paid a $104 million "whistleblower" reward for his invaluable help in exposing his old clients.
Average West Virginians can't elude taxes by hiding millions in foreign shelters. It's disgusting that many in the elite 1 percent do so.