Clemency by Christmas Campaign Starts for Bradley Birkenfeld
By Brenda Craig
Washington, DC: Bradley Birkenfeld, the American banker who exposed the largest US tax fraud in history and led to the recovery of $780 million hidden away in Swiss banks, does not deserve to be in jail says Stephen Kohn, the executive director of The National whistleblowers Center (NWC). "We’d like to see him receive clemency immediately, but certainly by Christmas."
Clemency by Christmas Campaign Starts for Bradley BirkenfeldBirkenfeld’s father has written a Thanksgiving Day letter to President Obama, personally asking for clemency for his son.
The US Justice Department believed that Birkenfeld’s revelations were essentially too little and too late, and sentenced him to 40 months in prison for conspiracy. To date, he is the only person, including the evaders themselves, to do time for the tax scheme.
Kohn says Birkenfeld fits the definition of a whistleblower and should not be considered a criminal. "He did not initiate the plan or set it up," says Kohn. "The entire program was established years ago by UBS and Birkenfeld was just hired to work there. When he found out what was going on, he reported it to UBS and quit his job."
"He’s a classic whistleblower," adds Kohn. "He’s someone who was in on the inside. That’s how you learn all the gory details and then he turned in the leadership."
Birkenfeld has served 10 months, or about 25 percent of his sentence. The fact that US authorities turned on a key witness who exposed hundreds of US tax evaders is "outrageous and repugnant," according to Kohn.
"The tax department, which I don’t think has ever had a whistleblower in its life, for whatever reason decided to prosecute him," says Kohn, who has authored or co-authored five books on whistleblower law.
Birkenfeld is currently being held in a federal prison in Pennsylvania. While Birkenfeld’s imprisonment is unacceptable to Kohn, there is a larger issue at play. It is believed trillions of dollars more are still hidden in offshore accounts. "It is unlikely that we are going to get another whistleblower if they think they’re going to be prosecuted and sent to jail," says Kohn.
For 20 years, The National Whistleblowers Center has advocated in the courts and before congress for people who speak out against wrongdoing in the workplace organization.
Stephen Kohn is the executive director of the National Whistleblowers Center. He holds a JD from Northeastern School of Law and an MA in political science from Brown University. NWC is a non-profit, non-partisan organization. It is affiliated with The National Whistleblower Legal Defense and Education Fund, which provides legal referrals to whistleblowers in search of competent counsel.