Former UBS banker Raoul Weil, who appeared in the United States court for assistance in tax evasion, was acquitted on Monday, dealing a serious blow to US authorities.
After the verdict, Mr. Weil collapsed in tears, falling into the arms of his wife, according to journalists. He risked five years in prison and a heavy fine.
It took just two hours of deliberation of the jury of the court of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, to launder the former head of the asset management of the Swiss bank UBS, who appeared free since mid-October.
The charges against him were not thin: according to the indictment, Mr. Weil had played an active role in a massive tax fraud that allowed 20,000 wealthy American clients to evade taxes by hiding some $ 20 billion.
According to the Ministry of Justice, a group of bankers at UBS were lobbying the wealthiest Americans in the United States who illegally opened their secret accounts and used encrypted computers to prevent the manipulation to be discovered.
“This is a very simple case. In 2001, Mr. Weil was aware of these practices and he participated,” said the prosecutor Jason Poole Monday in his indictment.
In the sights of justice for these practices, UBS had escaped prosecution by paying a fine of $780 million and agreeing to cooperate fully with the American authorities.
For this emblematic trial, the prosecution relied on millions of documents, but also on the testimony of former subordinates of Mr. Weil, who was cleared in exchange for their cooperation with the law.
Key prosecution witness, Martin Liechti filed for several days at the helm charging his former superior and brushing him the portrait of a greedy and manipulative man.
“I told him several times that business is a nightmare,” said the witness in particular was, adding, “It was really frustrating. For him, the profit came first. ”
According to his testimony, Mr. Weil has even constrained the regularization of cheating customers by greed.
The prosecution, who did not wish to comment after the acquittal, failed to carry conviction of the twelve jurors.
Throughout the two weeks of trial, counsel for Mr. Weil had described his position: his client is innocent and a victim of the actions of its employees who concealed her practices to beautify their business results.
In his closing argument, counsel for the accused, Matthew Menchel, assured that “no document” brings any evidence of Weil guilt and his involvement in this large-scale tax evasion.
“The life of this man was destroyed. Do not assassinate him,” he said in his speech addressing the jury before they retired to consider the verdict.
Sacked by UBS, Mr. Weil was arrested in October 2013 in Italy, extradited to the US and released under judicial supervision on payment of a deposit of $10.5 million, the return of his Swiss passport and under condition of wearing an electronic bracelet.
During the hearing, the defense had also tried to discredit the witnesses putting their accusations on behalf of professional resentment and a zeal dictated by their cooperation with the authorities.
“There has always been tension in your working relationship with Mr. Weil,” said the defense lawyer Mr. Liechti.
The scandal caused in 2009 by the UBS case had sparked an outcry in the United States and led authorities to beef up their fight against tax evasion.
A year later in July, Washington passed the FATCA law that requires banks to report to the tax authorities systematically about US accounts and assets of their customers designated as “US persons.”