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Swiss ex-banker pleads to helping US tax evaders

ALEXANDRIA, Va. — A former Swiss banker pleaded guilty Wednesday to his role in a fraud scheme that prosecutors say helped US taxpayers hide as much as $3 billion in assets from the IRS.

Andreas Bachmann, 56, a Swiss citizen, is one of eight former employees of Zurich-based Credit Suisse to be charged in 2011. He is the first to be arrested and plead guilty. All eight were living in Switzerland, which has been unwilling to extradite, but Bachmann agreed to come to the United States and strike a plea deal. The plea hearing was scheduled several weeks ago, and he was arrested Tuesday in Alexandria.

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Bachmann faces a maximum of five years in prison under the plea deal. His attorney did not return a telephone call and e-mail seeking comment Wednesday.

In a statement, Deputy Attorney General James Cole indicated that more cases could be moving forward in the coming months.

‘‘Today’s plea is just the latest step in our wide-ranging investigations into Swiss banking activities,’’ Cole said.

In court papers, Bachmann admitted traveling twice a year to the United States as an employee of a Credit Suisse subsidiary to meet with clients who maintained secret Swiss accounts as a means of avoiding US taxes. He would show clients their account statements, and if they asked for a copy he would ask them, ‘‘Do you really want to keep the statement?’’ and suggest that keeping physical records of the account was a risk.

The plea documents also show that Credit Suisse deliberately formed a subsidiary in the 1990s to handle tax haven accounts that were considered too risky to operate under the flagship operation.

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