For Immediate Release
Anti-Corruption and Whistleblower Advocacy Groups Urge Holder to Review UBS Whistleblower Case
Punishing Whistleblowers Discourages National and International Anti-Corruption Efforts
Whistleblowers Center (NWC), the Government Accountability Project (GAP) and
the Project on Government Oversight (POGO) sent a letter to U.S. Attorney
General Eric Holder, urging him to review the case of Bradley Birkenfeld, the
international banker who blew the whistle on secret offshore accounts at UBS
Bank in Switzerland.
On August 21, Mr. Birkenfeld was sentenced to three years and four months in
prison for his actions, despite the fact that UBS's tax fraud scheme
never would have been discovered without Mr. Birkenfeld's disclosure.
The letter calls on the Department
of Justice to reconsider Mr. Birkenfeld's case and "take action to
prevent one of the worst setbacks in international law enforcement
history." A copy of the letter can be found here: http://whistleblower.org/doc/
The letter states in part:
As estimated by
the U.S. Senate Subcommittee
on Permanent Investigations, $5-7 trillion dollars in U.S.
'taxpayer' assets are hidden in offshore accounts. Annually,
the treasury loses over $100 billion in revenue due to these illegal accounts.
These accounts provide sanctuary for the worst criminal elements in our
society. They are safe havens for people who profit from selling heroin
in our inner cities or who bribe our elected leaders. As recognized under
international treaties signed by the United States, bank secrecy is the
handmaiden of corruption. These international treaties recognize that
corruption undermines the rule of law and threatens human rights around the
Birkenfeld whistleblower status, and sending him off to a long prison term,
radically undermines the ability of the U.S. government to detect,
prosecute and prevent illegal off-shore banking practices. Without
exaggeration, on the day Mr. Birkenfeld enters a federal penitentiary, every
criminal using offshore secret banks to hide their ill-gotten gain will
celebrate. The Department of Justice will, unintentionally, be party to a
well-publicized worldwide event that will send a chill down the spine of any
international banker who, like Mr. Birkenfeld, feels guilty about the practices
they participate in and wants to help stop these insidious practices that undermine
the rule of law.
Department of Justice imprison the international banker who had the courage to
voluntarily step forward and blow the whistle on one of the world's most
powerful corporations? Or will the Department of Justice use the Bradley
Birkenfeld case as an historic opportunity to promote whistleblowing in the
fight against corrupt international banks?
In urging the Attorney General to
conduct this review, representatives from the organization stated the
Lindsey M. Williams, NWC Advocacy Director: "We are
urging Attorney General Holder to conduct an independent review because this
case is about more than just Mr. Birkenfeld - it is about every
whistleblower who is considering coming forward to report tax fraud in offshore
Jesselyn Radack, GAP Homeland
Security Director: "Brad Birkenfeld gave the Justice Department its
entire historic case against UBS on a silver platter. It thanked him by letting
all the Swiss bad actors go free and prosecuting the whistleblower - an
Danielle Brian, POGO Executive
Director: "This case sends a clear message to those considering reporting
wrongdoing to DOJ: don't bother."
The Government Accountability Project is the nation's leading whistleblower protection organization. Through litigating whistleblower cases, publicizing concerns and developing legal reforms, GAP's mission is to protect the public interest by promoting government and corporate accountability. Founded in 1977, GAP is a non-profit, non-partisan advocacy organization based in Washington, D.C.
The National Whistleblowers Center (NWC) is an advocacy organization with a 20-year history of protecting the right of individuals to speak out about wrongdoing in the workplace without fear of retaliation.
Founded in 1981, the Project On Government Oversight (POGO) is an independent nonprofit that investigates and exposes corruption and other misconduct in order to achieve a more effective, accountable, open, and ethical federal government.