As President Donald Trump heads into his last few weeks in office, he has started to hand out pardons. This has prompted calls for the President to pardon Bradley Birkenfeld, the man who single-handedly ended the long-standing institute of Swiss banking secrecy. A former international banker and wealth manager with UBS, he witnessed a massive tax evasion scheme. The scheme helped wealthy U.S. citizens create secret Swiss offshore accounts to avoid paying taxes. Mr. Birkenfeld’s disclosure led to a settlement in which UBS agreed to pay $780 million in fines to the United States. UBS and the Swiss Government also agreed to turn over the names of thousands of Americans suspected of tax evasion. More than 50,000 U.S. taxpayers turned themselves in, resulting in more than $24 billion collected from banks and individuals.
Before hiring Kohn, Kohn and Colapinto, Mr. Birkenfeld used another law firm in providing information to the U.S. government. Those actions had a catastrophic impact on Mr. Birkenfeld, as he provided information about tax frauds to Justice Department prosecutors who did not consider him a “whistleblower.” These prosecutors filed charges against Mr. Birkenfeld, and he was sentenced to jail. After pleading guilty to tax fraud he participated in as a Swiss banker, Mr. Birkenfeld hired the whistleblower law firm of Kohn, Kohn and Colapinto.
Kohn, Kohn and Colapinto filed a whistleblower case with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Mr. Birkenfeld’s case was the first of a Swiss banker filed under the IRS whistleblower law. The results were unprecedented as he was awarded the largest tax whistleblower award in history, $104 million. He received his award after he was released from prison.
Townhall.com columnist Derek Hunter writes, “None of the tax cheats were prosecuted – billionaires hiding billions of dollars in income from the IRS, and only the whistleblower went to jail or was even prosecuted. It’s the ultimate in swampiness.” Hunter reasons, “You’d think the federal government would’ve been very grateful to Mr. Birkenfeld,” instead, he was sent to prison. “Why Birkenfeld would have withheld information on one client while exposing thousands of other lawbreakers doesn’t make a lot of sense to me, but it still makes more sense than him, the person who exposed this fraud, being the only person involved in the whole affair to go to jail,” Hunter writes.
In an Op-Ed published in the Times-Republican, Syndicated columnist Wayne Allyn Root stated, “Instead of making Brad a national hero, Obama’s DOJ forced Brad to accept a charge of conspiracy to commit tax fraud and put him in prison. This was their way of shutting him up.” In his column, Mr. Root calls on President Trump, “It’s time to right a wrong. A presidential pardon is requested in order to recognize that the DOJ and the Obama administration committed a terrible injustice when they put Brad Birkenfeld in prison.”