Whistleblower in Swiss Bank Case Sentenced to 40 Months

By Zachary A. Goldfarb
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, August 22, 2009

A federal judge on Friday ignored the request of federal prosecutors and sentenced the whistleblower who helped the U.S. government expose billions of dollars in Swiss tax shelters to 40 months in prison.

Bradley C. Birkenfeld, a former banker for Swiss banking giant UBS, helped U.S. officials uncover billions of dollars in taxpayer money in secret bank accounts.

Earlier this week, UBS agreed to turn over information on more than 4,000 accounts to the Internal Revenue Service.

The sentence delivered by the judge in Florida was 10 more months than prosecutors had requested. Birkenfeld had asked to be sentenced only to probation.

The judge is allowing Birkenfeld to remain out of prison until Jan. 8 to continue to assist the U.S. government's investigation.

Birkenfeld pleaded guilty to a criminal charge last year for assisting UBS's tax-shelter program. Prosecutors asked for leniency while saying that he did not disclose the full extent of his role when he first stepped forward.

The prison term for Birkenfeld has whistleblower advocates concerned that others will be discouraged from coming forward.

UBS has already agreed to pay $780 million to settle allegations that it helped Americans hide money from the IRS.

© 2009 The Washington Post Company