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Pardoning a Whistleblower

By       Message Pete Tucker     Permalink
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In Addition to a Turkey, Obama Should Pardon a Whistleblower this Holiday Season

President Barack Obama carried on a tradition by pardoning a turkey the day before Thanksgiving. In a personal letter to the president, Dr. Ronald Birkenfeld called on President Obama to go a step further this holiday season and also pardon his son, the jailed whistleblower and former UBS banker, Bradley Birkenfeld.

Dr. Ronald Birkenfeld's letter reads, "This is a personal appeal to your sense of justice, Mr. President, in light of Bradley's undisputed service to our country. He single-handedly exposed the largest tax fraud in IRS history... His separation from his loved ones is extremely painful to our family, especially when we know that his sentence is harsher than that of any of the thousands of wrongdoers that he took the unprecedented risk to expose. This Christmas, the thousands of US citizens with offshore accounts who were granted amnesty will be sitting at home with their families. The high ranking UBS executives who pled guilty and were merely made to pay a fine will be exchanging presents with their loved ones... To this day, Bradley has spent more time in jail than any other banker, client, or  executive held responsible for this decades-long crime."

This past May, at an event held just around the corner from the U.S. Capitol, the National Whistleblower Assembly named Bradley Birkenfeld "Tax Whistleblower of the Year." On behalf of his imprisoned brother, Douglas Birkenfeld proudly accepted the award. In an interview directly following the ceremony, Douglas Birkenfeld said, "[Bradley blew] the whistle on the largest international tax scheme that was being employed by the big Swiss bank UBS against the United States. They had a scheme that was going on for several years, starting from before he even was working there. And when he discovered a document internally that basically said everything that that division was doing was illegal, he confronted his superiors on that and they just told him not to talk about it and stop causing trouble."
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Douglas Birkenfeld continued, "[Bradley] demanded answers, didn't get them, resigned from the bank, came to the United States and advised the Department of Justice, the SEC, the IRS, and the United States Senate [on] what UBS was doing, how they were doing it, and how they tried to conceal it. And what has resulted from this? UBS has already admitted in court in a public document that they were engaged in illegal activities from 2000 all the way to 2007. They've paid a $780 million fine. They have fired the entire executive management of the bank in Switzerland and the list goes on."

Douglas Birkenfeld said, "[When] the Department of Justice officials... found out [that Bradley] was a whistleblower, actually before they even knew his name, before they knew what country he was coming from, what bank he was going to be reporting on, they knew he was a whistleblower, and they were openly hostile toward him from before they even knew who he was. The correspondence back and forth between the justice department, and we're talking about the Tax Division of the Bush Department of Justice now, this is back in 2007. They were openly hostile toward him and it was clear from the get-go that they were [targeting] him because he is a whistleblower."

Douglas Birkenfeld continued, "So what they did was, they took all of [Bradley's] information, they promised him that, yes, if he's credible he'll get immunity, but then they backed out of that and said, no, we don't think that - for whatever reason, [it's] just nonsense what they gave as an excuse - and they turned around and they decided to charge him with one count of conspiring to assist in somebody's tax evasion, which is absolutely, when you think about it, it's absurd: the person who exposed the entire scandal is the only one who was sent to jail, the only banker who was sent to jail by the Justice Department."

Douglas Birkenfeld said of the U.S. Justice Department, "They haven't really gone after anybody else. What they did do was really disingenuous. They have indicted one or two senior executives in Switzerland, Swiss citizens. But those people were born in Switzerland, they live in Switzerland, they're not going to be extradited and the Justice Department knows that. These are empty gestures. The Swiss government does not extradite their own citizens for tax offenses. So this is a complete sham. They gave immunity to the lower rank, middle management people who were running the show and the people at the very top they give these empty indictments to make it look as though they're being rough and tough guys over at the Justice Department, but these people will never walk into this country, they'll never be in a courtroom in this country and they know it."

Douglas Birkenfeld described his jailed brother's petition for clemency, "[Bradley] was given a sentence of 40 months in a minimum security facility and there is presently a formal request, a written request for clemency on President Obama's desk. It has been submitted. It was actually submitted on tax day, April 15 for his consideration. It is voluminous. It shows his cooperation. It shows how he came forward, how he initiated contact with the United States government about this and how the U.S. government had no clue as to what was going on in this regard until he came forward, and all the benefits that the U.S. government is appreciating now as a result of his efforts" I think it's a pretty strong argument that he ought to be given some consideration on this petition."
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To learn more about Bradley Birkenfeld's case, as well as other whistleblowers, visit National Whistleblowers Center at


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Journalist Pete Tucker reports for

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