Bittersweet Justice for Bradley Birkenfeld

Today, the IRS awarded whistleblower Bradley Birkenfeld $104 million to reward him for having exposed UBS’ methods of helping US tax cheats hide their loot, tax free, in Switzerland.

It’s a bittersweet award, I’m sure. As Birkenfeld’s lawyer, Stephen Kohn, reminded at the ceremony, Birkenfeld was imprisoned by the Obama Administration for fraud in spite of what now is clear confirmation he acted as a whistleblower; he got out early on August 1 from his 40 month sentence.

The IRS reward will help undo the tremendous damage caused by the ill-conceived decision of the U.S. Department of Justice to ignore the whistleblower laws and prosecute Mr. Birkenfeld. Mr. Birkenfeld was the only UBS banker to blow the whistle and the only UBS banker to be prosecuted. By doing so the DOJ sent the wrong message to international bankers. They caused a chilling effect on the willingness of employees in the international banking industry with direct knowledge of illegal offshore banking practices to step forward to report these crimes.

The National Whistleblower Center carefully investigated the basis upon which the DOJ justified its prosecution. The DOJ did not tell the truth about Mr. Birkenfeld. At his sentencing hearing, the DOJ justified its decision to indict Mr. Birkenfeld based on its position that Mr. Birkenfeld had failed to inform the government about the illegal activities of his largest client, billionaire Igor Olenicoff.

But this charge against Mr. Birkenfeld was false and defamatory. The NWC carefully reviewed court records concerning the Olenicoff case, internal emails regarding Mr. Birkenfeld’s disclosures, and a confidential transcript of sworn testimony Mr. Birkenfeld provided to the U.S. Senate in 2007 about the illegal activities of Mr. Olenicoff. These materials absolutely verify that Mr. Birkenfeld did in fact blow the whistle on Mr. Olenicoff, and that the charges made by the DOJ were false. The NWC finds it very troubling that the prosecutor who leveled these charges in court against Mr. Birkenfeld has left his government job and taken a position with a major law firm that defends tax cheats. The DOJ also granted immunity to the top-ranking official at UBS who was responsible for the UBS tax frauds and permitted this official, Martin Liechti, to leave the United States and obtain safe-haven in Switzerland where, to this day, he has escaped justice. Mr. Liechti invoked the 5th amendment in testimony before the U.S. Senate.

There’s even a WikiLeaks cable suggesting we prosecuted Birkenfeld as a favor to the Swiss.

And it’s not just Birkenfeld who has gotten limited justice out of this–though obviously he is by far the worst off. While the IRS got over $5 billion in owed taxes as a result of his whistleblowing, no one else went to prison, not even the several individuals about whom specifically Birkenfeld blew the whistle. And a bunch of rich people–potentially including a Presidential candidate–enjoyed an amnesty that didn’t even require them to admit they had been cheating their country.

In short, like so much else with the Obama Administration, it’s an example where the real criminals go free while the whistleblowers get prosecuted.

Tweet about this on Twitter0Share on Reddit0Share on Facebook0Google+7Email to someone

14 Responses to Bittersweet Justice for Bradley Birkenfeld

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8
  • 9
  • 10
  • 11
  • 12
  • 13
  • 14
Emptywheel Twitterverse
bmaz Roger Goodell and NFL once again try to screw players: "NFL seeks to dismiss former players' painkillers lawsuit" http://t.co/fZzstcjZ1n
40mreplyretweetfavorite
emptywheel @HearingTrees Halloween costume. Ends on Saturday.
1hreplyretweetfavorite
emptywheel @pwnallthethings My privacy rights arise from the bureaucratic insurance they will be protected. Laws do that. @PatrickCToomey
1hreplyretweetfavorite
bmaz @PhilPerspective @walterwkatz Also, I was disappointed @NBCSN did not have any programming from #COTA in Austin today.
1hreplyretweetfavorite
bmaz @PhilPerspective @walterwkatz @NBCSN Nope, but if it is Road to Ferrari, I have seen it.
1hreplyretweetfavorite
bmaz In private papers a more candid Tim Geithner speaks out http://t.co/nNn7RjDkGK Tim Geithner is a liar+fundamentally dishonest public servant
1hreplyretweetfavorite
emptywheel RT @rahulsagar: NYTimes: Former Navy SEAL Team Member Investigated for Bin Laden Disclosures http://t.co/3JABCASiBu
2hreplyretweetfavorite
emptywheel RT @ppppolls: We'll have a new #VAsen poll out tomorrow showing Mark Warner with a 9 point lead heading into the final weekend
2hreplyretweetfavorite
emptywheel @PatrickCToomey If you're a Yemeni-American extremist cleric, you may enjoy your own life at his grace. @pwnallthethings
2hreplyretweetfavorite
emptywheel I want to be a professional onside kicker. Where do I apply?
2hreplyretweetfavorite
JimWhiteGNV Did Louisville do a Gator flop to get the ball back quickly?
2hreplyretweetfavorite
September 2012
S M T W T F S
« Aug   Oct »
 1
2345678
9101112131415
16171819202122
23242526272829
30