On 3 January 2012 three Swiss bankers working for Switzerland's oldest bank, Wegelin & Company, were charged with tax evasion by US prosecutors in Manhattan. The bankers are accused of helping US clients to evade US taxes through secret Swiss bank accounts. The three bankers allegedly solicited clients between 2005 and 2010 by using sham companies in Liechtenstein, Panama and Hong Kong. An amount exceeding USD 1.2 million is said to be involved. According to the three bankers, their clients did not need to worry about the US tax authorities because Wegelin & Company had a long tradition of bank secrecy and no offices outside Switzerland. If they are convicted, the Swiss bankers each face a maximum prison term of five years and fines up to USD 250,000.
The US tax authorities have previously pursued tax-evading Americans in Switzerland and the bankers who have assisted in evasion schemes. Whereas these cases involved large banks, the recent charge against Wegelin & Company shows that smaller financial institutions in Switzerland are being scrutinised as well.