- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 23, 2009

BERN, Switzerland | Swiss bank UBS AG said Tuesday that it would inform American clients whether their bank accounts are among the 4,450 that would be revealed to the U.S. Justice Department in a tax evasion investigation.

UBS said it would comply with Monday’s ruling by a Swiss court in favor of two U.S. clients seeking clarification on whether their account details would be handed over to Washington. The information transfer is part of an agreement last month that ended a long dispute between the two countries over wealthy Americans hiding money at the bank.

Switzerland and UBS have so far refused to name the people in public. U.S. authorities, meanwhile, have hoped that the identities of the people on the list would be kept secret for longer so that more Americans with undeclared assets abroad might come forward under an amnesty program.

UBS spokesman Serge Steiner said the bank has taken note of the decision by the court in the southern city of Lugano and would honor it.

“UBS is currently examining which client relationships fulfill the government’s criteria of ‘tax fraud or the like,’ ” Mr. Steiner said. He said this process would take “some months,” but UBS would tell clients whether they were affected once a decision was reached.

UBS has already informed the first 500 clients whose information has been sought by U.S. authorities.

The U.S.-Switzerland accord in August instructed the bank to inform clients if they are included in U.S. Justice Department requests for account details. The new ruling goes farther by compelling UBS to answer clients wishing to know whether they will be included in future U.S. requests, based on the still-confidential criteria of the agreement.

As some of these accounts have yet to be identified, a “no” answer from UBS may not prove definitive.

The IRS on Monday said it would extend its deadline for an amnesty program that has been flooded with applications from people who hid assets overseas. The program promises no jail time and reduced penalties for tax dodgers who come forward.

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