Ex-UBS banker charged with tax fraud conspiracy

A former banker at Switzerland's UBS AG pleaded not guilty Tuesday to a tax fraud conspiracy charge that accuses him of helping a wealthy U.S. client hide assets from the Internal Revenue Service.

Banker Renzo Gadola, 44, entered his plea at a brief hearing Tuesday after court documents were unsealed charging him with the crime.

The documents claim Gadola and an unnamed second Swiss banker helped an unidentified Mississippi man hide an account at UBS and open another secret account at a second Swiss bank.

Gadola worked at UBS for 13 years, then in early 2009 began working as an independent investment adviser.

Prosecutors say he and the other banker tried to prevent the client from disclosing his secret accounts to the IRS. During a November meeting at a Miami hotel, according to court documents, Gadola told the client the likelihood that his new accounts would be discovered was "practically zero percent."

"You have no link to UBS whatsoever, so 99.9 percent you have nothing to worry about," Gadola told the client, according to court documents.

The type of document prosecutors used to file the charges typically indicates that a defendant eventually will plead guilty. Neither Gadola nor his attorney, Peter Raben, would comment after the hearing.

The case is the latest prosecution in the U.S. campaign to identify wealthy tax dodgers with hidden overseas wealth, much of it connected to UBS. The Swiss banking giant in August 2009 reached an agreement to disclose identities of 4,450 U.S. clients, a highly publicized case that led some 15,000 people to voluntarily reveal their accounts to the IRS to avoid criminal prosecution.

UBS also paid a $780 million fine to the U.S. for its tax evasion offenses and agreed to end its illegal practices. Several former clients have been prosecuted and many sentenced to prison time.

In Tuesday's case, court documents say that Gadola and his Swiss partner moved assets out of UBS to new secret accounts at the Basel-based Basler Kantonalbank. Gadola was the primary contact for clients in the U.S. because he was registered as an investment adviser with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

The Mississippi client and his siblings inherited a UBS account from their mother, according to court papers. The client also had about $445,000 in cash he gave the Swiss bankers to deposit.

If convicted, Gadola faces a maximum of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.