On April 30, 2014, Josef Dorig, 72, of Switzerland, pleaded guilty in federal district court in Alexandria, Virginia, to a single count of Klein conspiracy: conspiracy to defraud the U.S. by impairing and impeding the IRS. According to the agreed statement of facts that accompanied the plea agreement, Dorig owned a trust company and helped U.S. taxpayers set up entities to conceal their ownership of accounts at a Swiss bank referred to as “International Bank” and widely believed to be Credit Suisse. The court will sentence Dorig on August 8, 2014.
Although the DOJ’s press release points out that Dorig’s maximum sentence is five years, it does not refer to the cooperation agreement that could result in a substantial reduction in Dorig’s sentence, up to and including a sentence of probation. Dorig and the Government agreed on a tax loss of between $7,000,000 and $20,000,000, plus enhancements and reductions that will likely result in a Sentencing Guidelines range of 57-71 months in prison. The wild card is the plea agreement’s cooperation provision. If Dorig cooperates fully with the Government in this and other cases, the Government can move for a reduction in Dorig’s Guidelines sentence under Section 5K1.1 of the Guidelines, possibly resulting in yet another offshore sentence of probation.
The DOJ’s recitation of details of Dorig’s admitted wrongdoing follows.
Dörig admitted that between 1997 and 2011, while owning and operating a trust company, he engaged in a wide-ranging conspiracy to aid and assist U.S. customers in evading their income taxes by concealing assets and income in secret bank accounts held in the names of sham entities at a financial institution referred to in the superseding indictment as International Bank (IB), one of the biggest banks in Switzerland and one of the largest wealth managers in the world.
According to the statement of facts, from 1972 to 1996, Dörig worked for a subsidiary of IB. The subsidiary formed, managed and maintained nominee tax haven entities. Individuals concealed their assets by holding their accounts at IB in the names of these tax haven entities. During this time, the subsidiary managed and maintained over 100 sham entities for U.S. taxpayers committing tax evasion.
Also included in the statement of facts, in 1997, executives at the subsidiary devised a plan to spin off all of these sham entities into a new trust company, Dörig Partner AG, to be owned and operated by Dörig, who was then an employee of the subsidiary. Dörig was required to make his best efforts to keep the existing accounts at IB open and to ensure that any clients referred to him by IB would open new accounts at that institution.
According to the statement of facts, IB promoted Dörig Partner as a provider of various entity structures. The phone list used in IB’s New York representative office identified Dörig Partner as an external trust expert. Dörig Partner also sublet space from IB in an office tower where a private bank owned by IB was the major tenant.
As part of the conspiracy, Dörig traveled to the United States to introduce himself to new clients he had obtained as part of the spin-off. In the following years, he traveled to the United States with bankers from IB, including his co-defendants Markus Walder, Marco Parenti-Adami and Michele Bergantino, to meet with existing and prospective clients who already had undeclared accounts at IB but had been identified by the IB’s bankers as potential candidates for the use of a structure.
According to the statement of facts, although Dörig ostensibly controlled both the structure and the account at IB, in practice, many of the U.S. taxpayers with undeclared accounts controlled the assets in those accounts by dealing directly with IB bankers, often without either the knowledge or consent of Dörig.
According to the statement of facts, in 2008, IB ordered Dörig Partner to close accounts for the structures they managed. Dörig turned to an asset manager at a financial services firm in Zurich for assistance. The financial services firm maintained a master account in its own name at a private bank in Gibraltar, and then opened sub-accounts for Dörig’s clients at that bank to which Dörig transferred the funds from the clients’ undeclared accounts at IB. The financial services firm provided the Gibraltar bank only with the number associated with each sub-account and did not inform the bank of any information regarding the owners of the assets in the sub-accounts.