Trends: Whistle Blowing is Going out of Style as much in the USA as it is in Europe
By Kevin Anthony Stoda, Germany
This past weekend, "[a] former banker for the Swiss giant UBS who blew the whistle on the biggest tax evasion scheme in US history . . . [headed] to prison . . . to begin serving a forty-month federal sentence."
According to Juan Gonzalez on Democracy Now last week, "Bradley Birkenfeld first came forward to US authorities in 2007 and began providing inside information on how UBS was helping thousands of Americans hide assets in secret Swiss accounts. UBS pleaded guilty last February and paid a $780 million fine. UBS has also agreed to turn over the names of the nearly 4,500 of its American clients to the Justice Department. That's only a portion of the 19,000 it claims the secret accounts of Americans it held. Meanwhile, thousands of other Americans with unreported offshore accounts have been allowed to belatedly disclose them and pay civil penalties."
Amy Goodman, on the same program chimed in, "Government prosecutors have admitted the massive fraud scheme would probably not have been discovered without Birkenfeld blowing the whistle on UBS. So why is he the only one going to jail? Prosecutors claim Birkenfeld withheld information on how he had helped his biggest US client, California billionaire Igor Olenicoff, hide hundreds of millions of dollars in assets. Birkenfeld pleaded guilty in 2008 and received a forty-month sentence. His lawyers filed a formal complaint this week with the US Attorney General's Office of Professional Responsibility, claiming the "main allegations used to secure [Birkenfeld's] indictment and imprisonment were not based on accurate or truthful information.'"
To tell the truth, Birkenfeld had been hanging out with other illegal-types in Switzerland helping to launder money illegally for years. However, his conscience appears to have gotten to him during his time at one of the largest banks in the world, UBS (Switzerland based). However, Birkenfeld made the mistake of going honest during the Bush administration, i.e. when so many wealthy lawbreakers were protected by the White House and its appointees, our (the USA) federal governance has been set back about 100 years in terms of oversight ant justice in many fields.
Birkenfeld's lawyer, Stephen Kohn, noted, "What's triple outrageous--I'm going beyond double--is that then they [the Bush regime followed by the current Obama one through neglect] recommend thirty months imprisonment for Birkenfeld. He gets forty months, more than probably every single tax cheat, the 19,000 of them that he turned in, will get collectively. Olenicoff, the billionaire, who for twenty years was hiding millions and millions of dollars willfully, got probation. A guy named Liechti, who was Birkenfeld's third line supervisor in the Swiss bank, who was in charge of all the illegal accounts, who was detained and arrested by the Justice Department, was released and let to go back to Switzerland with no prison time or even a conviction, whereas Birkenfeld, who blew the whistle on the whole scheme voluntarily, is going to serve more time in prison than the worst of the wrongdoers that were involved in holding back $20 billion in illegal accounts."
The NationalWhistleblowersCenter in WashingtonD.C. reports:
"Today at approximately 2:00 pm EST, UBS whistleblower Bradley Birkenfeld reported to federal prison to begin a 40-month sentence. This miscarriage of justice will have the perverse effect of silencing whistleblowers who want to report tax fraud. In our entire history tracking whistleblower cases, this is the most abhorrent action ever taken against a whistleblower. Mr. Birkenfeld deserves to be commended for protecting the American people and yet he faces the loss of his liberty."
NationalWhistleblowersCenter calls for immediate action by readers to demand that USA Attorney General Holder have the Holder case reviewed immediately. (Go to this link to sign the NWC petition to Holder: http://www.capwiz.com/whistleblowers/issues/alert/?alertid=14530706&type=ML
The facts of the case are clear:
- Mr. Birkenfeld repeatedly tried to correct the illegal UBS tax fraud scheme internally.
- Mr. Birkenfeld resigned from UBS when they failed to correct the problem internally.
- Mr. Birkenfeld voluntarily approached the U.S. government with his allegations.
- Mr. Birkenfeld made full disclosures to the Department of Justice, Internal Revenue Service, Securities and Exchange Commission, and the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations.
- Every UBS tax cheat that has been prosecuted has received probation, fines, and/or community service - NO jail time.
- Mr. Birkenfeld is the ONLY person connected with UBS to receive a prison sentence.
A View from Europe
For over a year now, in order to promote better light on mis-governance, civil servants'misdeeds, and justice in Europe, I have printed a series of stories on interviews with officials in various ministries in Germany who have not lifted a whistle to call into question a variety of procedures and actions carried out as protocol in order to keep foreigners from either legally visiting or living with their family members on the European continent over the past half decade. (This is all against European codes of justice, by the way.)
Now, as I peer across the Atlantic to my homeland and see how little support there has been for whistle blowers, e.g. not just in the Birkenfeld case but in various other cases involving people who blew the whistle on Bush and Cheney mis-governance, demagoguery, Guantanamo, torture, and innumerable crimes (as head of the Executive Branch of the USA from 2001-2009), my shoulders hunch in despair and disgust.
America, go back to the best American ideals of fairness and governance. SUPPORT WHISTLEBLOWING & GOOD GOVERNANCE NOW.
If American's throw all support for whistleblowers out, who will protect some of the planets most important but misunderstood whistleblowers, like Mr. Birkenfeld?