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
JimWhiteGNV RT @ProtestEasyGuns: HORROR IN AMERICA CONTINUES: 2 die in school shooting near Seattle... http://t.co/wm2nZWAr8d
1mreplyretweetfavorite
emptywheel RT @StevenTDennis: The north doors of the Palm Room. Where I stood after WH refused full pool access to Nina Pham meeting in Oval http://t.…
2mreplyretweetfavorite
JimWhiteGNV RT @IraHeatBeat: Pelicans trim their roster to the regular-season limit of 15, with former Gator forward Patric Young making the cut to thi…
3mreplyretweetfavorite
JimWhiteGNV For the eighty-seventh time since Sandy Hook, it's too soon to talk about how easy it is for disturbed people to get guns. #FuckTheNRA
3mreplyretweetfavorite
emptywheel @declanm Not gonna do much good in CA. @BradMossEsq @Krhawkins5
11mreplyretweetfavorite
emptywheel RT @JasonLeopold: Member of FARC Terrorist Org Sentenced to 27 Yrs in Prison on Hostage-Taking Charges in 2003 Capture of US Citizens http:…
16mreplyretweetfavorite
emptywheel @onekade Thought bubble: "Goddamnit, Denis, if I die because of this and Joe gets to take over I'll never forgive you."
17mreplyretweetfavorite
emptywheel So game this out, hivemind. What if GOP wins the Senate, but McConnell loses? What kind of Majority Leader would John Cornyn make?
28mreplyretweetfavorite
JimWhiteGNV Time to put down your bets on the news dump hour. Will it be Preet for AG or does BO wait for R control of Sen next month for even worse?
29mreplyretweetfavorite
emptywheel @declanm Unless of course McConnell goes down. Then all bets are off. @BradMossEsq @Krhawkins5
31mreplyretweetfavorite
emptywheel @declanm Also, given Jeff Flake precedent doubt Gardener would get on Intel w/o making promises to back party line @BradMossEsq @Krhawkins5
31mreplyretweetfavorite
emptywheel @declanm Ah, but there is an NSA oversight story to Burr too! https://t.co/A6OPvywPQq @BradMossEsq @Krhawkins5
33mreplyretweetfavorite
September 2012
S M T W T F S
« Aug   Oct »
 1
2345678
9101112131415
16171819202122
23242526272829
30