US Intention to Pursue Enforcement in Spite of Foreign Law

cross posted from the Isaac Brock Society

Philadelphia Tax Conference Wednesday, November 2, 2016:

“We will pursue enforcement of a Bank of Nova Scotia summons when a domestic entity has dominion or control over records located outside the United States, even where the domestic entity asserts that production may be a violation of foreign law, if our interest in combatting tax evasion substantially outweighs the interest in foreign jurisdictions in allowing banks to preserve the privacy of their customers.

Bank of Nova Scotia summons

V. CONCLUSION

Absent direction from the Legislative and Executive branches of our federal government, we are not willing to emasculate the grand jury process whenever a foreign nation attempts to block our criminal justice process. It is unfortunate the Bank of Nova Scotia suffers from differing legal commands of separate sovereigns, but as we stated in Field:
In a world where commercial transactions are international in scope, conflicts are inevitable. Courts and legislatures should take every reasonable precaution to avoid placing individuals in the situation [the Bank] finds [it]self. Yet, this court simply cannot acquiesce in the proposition that United States criminal investigations must be thwarted whenever there is conflict with the interest of other states.
In re Grand Jury Proceedings. United States v. Field, 535 F.2d at 410.

For the reasons stated above, the judgment entered by the district court is

AFFIRMED.

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I am not at all suggesting that minnows would have any need to be overly fearful. Given our government’s recent “throwing us under the bus”, I have little faith they will do anything to fight this if it becomes larger in scope.

If a bank acted outside of the tidy IGA arrangement and was involved in the exchange of private taxpayer information to the IRS (a PIPEDA violation-even if against US Persons), wouldn’t the bank open itself up to being sued?

I think it is totally possible Harden, Van deMark etc, may not be of much help given the overall shift regarding extraterritorial tax…..

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Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Caroline D. Ciraolo Delivers Keynote Address at the American Bar Association’s 27th Annual Philadelphia Tax Conference
Philadelphia, PA United States ~ Wednesday, November 2, 2016
Remarks as prepared for delivery

Excerpts concerning “offshore” efforts:

In addition, since 2008, the department, working with our colleagues in IRS Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI), charged more than 160 U.S. accountholders with tax evasion and willful failure to report foreign accounts and more than 50 individuals who assisted in this criminal conduct. We also reached resolutions with nine foreign financial institutions outside of the Swiss Bank Program and continue to pursue investigations of entities located within and outside Switzerland.

Our criminal offshore enforcement efforts have encouraged participation in the IRS offshore voluntary disclosure programs, through which more than 55,000 taxpayers have come into compliance and paid nearly $10 billion in tax, interest and penalties since 2009. In addition, filing of Reports of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts (FBARs) has increased from 332,000 reports for calendar year 2007, to over a million reports for 2015.

Our civil trial attorneys also furthered our offshore tax enforcement efforts, seeking the issuance of John Doe summonses to identify U.S. taxpayers whose identities are unknown and who are engaged in violations of the internal revenue laws and initiating summons enforcement proceedings to assist the IRS in conducting its examinations and determining the accurate tax due. The information we seek is often located in the United States; however, as we recently demonstrated in a district court in Miami, we will pursue enforcement of a Bank of Nova Scotia summons when a domestic entity has dominion or control over records located outside the United States, even where the domestic entity asserts that production may be a violation of foreign law, if our interest in combatting tax evasion substantially outweighs the interest in foreign jurisdictions in allowing banks to preserve the privacy of their customers.

Our civil trial attorneys also are actively engaged in suits involving penalties assessed for failing to file FBARs. These suits include affirmative litigation to collect unpaid penalties, and defensive litigation raising a variety of issues. We have approximately three dozen cases involving FBAR issues pending, the vast majority of which include a willfulness penalty for at least one of the years at issue. These suits have raised issues related to the computation of the penalty, burden of proof, service of process abroad, definition of a foreign account, corresponding assessments on spouses, venue, jurisdiction, and challenges under the Administrative Procedures Act.

UPDATE

I was curious what Ms. Ciraolo was referring to “recently in Miami” was about; not sure this is it but it is related.


Switzerland Defeated, the U.S. Turns Against Accounts in Other Countries

 
NB-note use of the word “defeated” – the country of Switzerland is “defeated” – Really….the mindset is unreal……
 
Two weeks prior to the Cayman guilty pleas in New York (March 9, 2016), in a different offshore banking prosecution in Miami, DOJ requested that a federal court issue a “Bank of Nova Scotia” summons to UBS in Miami. The summons demanded the records of a UBS account in Singapore belonging to a U.S. taxpayer in China. In the past, DOJ has repeatedly used “John Doe” summonses against foreign banks (including in Switzerland, Belize, India and the Caribbean) to obtain information about a broad class of U.S. taxpayers unknown by specific name. “Bank of Nova Scotia” summonses have not been used as frequently until now. They derive from a court case where a U.S. court compelled a branch of Scotiabank in Miami to disclose information to DOJ regarding a Scotia branch in the Cayman Islands, notwithstanding Cayman’s secrecy laws.

In the present case, UBS will argue that Singapore’s bank secrecy laws prevent UBS from providing the account records to DOJ. The parallel argument applied, of course, to accounts at UBS in Switzerland when DOJ prosecuted UBS in 2008. And yet, Swiss bank secrecy failed for UBS (and its U.S. clients) in 2009. Because of UBS’ substantial presence in the U.S., it was forced to settle with DOJ or else face penalties against UBS’ banking licenses and assets within the United States. For the same reason, we can expect that, just like the Swiss account records, the UBS Singapore account records will ultimately be handed over to DOJ.

Notwithstanding UBS’ vulnerability with respect to its U.S. assets, it is unlikely that the state of Singapore would risk its financial reputation to protect non-compliant accounts. Singapore makes a significant amount of money from legitimate international banking and finance and would not jeopardize this by being “blacklisted” as an uncooperative tax haven, as it was a decade ago. To this end, in 2014 Singapore signed FATCA, whereby Singapore financial institutions report information about U.S. account owners to the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore, which in turns furnishes the data to the IRS. In addition, a new Singapore regulation requires banks to identify all accounts that may harbor the proceeds of tax evasion, and close them. Failure to abide by this new law will result in criminal charges for the Singaporean bankers.

It is of course no surprise that DOJ and the IRS are pursuing undisclosed accounts in Cayman and Singapore. The U.S. has not limited its enforcement activity to non-compliant accounts in Switzerland alone. Within the last couple of years, DOJ has moved against banks and financial institutions in the Caribbean (CIBC First Caribbean, Stanford Bank and Butterfield Bank in the Bahamas, Barbados and elsewhere), Belize (Belize Bank International Limited and Belize Bank Limited), Panama (Sovereign Management) and India (HSBC India). We expect that other financial institutions, in other jurisdictions, are being investigated as well.

The settlement by some one hundred Swiss banks with DOJ, whereby in exchange for paying fines and naming U.S. account holders the banks avoid prosecution, has now freed up manifold resources at DOJ and IRS to examine and prosecute other financial institutions beyond Switzerland. Moreover, the account information handed over by the Swiss banks when settling with DOJ provided DOJ with a road map of funds leaving Switzerland and where these funds went, the so-called “leaver accounts”. DOJ and IRS are especially driven to investigate and prosecute these account holders, as they show an added level of intent to deceive the IRS. Many of the leaver accounts went to jurisdictions like Dubai, Israel, Singapore, Hong Kong and Panama. These jurisdictions are now targets of DOJ investigation.

 

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