U.S. Justice Department Probes Swiss Bank Pictet

The US Department of Justice is looking into Swiss banking giant Pictet Bank in relation to wealthy Americans who may be using the bank to shelter assets and avoiding income tax.

Pictet said in a statement the US Department of Justice had made a “general inquiry” into its wealth management business with U.S. clients, adding it would cooperate fully. The issue of tax shelters was thrust into the front of the American conscious this year due to a Presidential election which focused largely on the wealth of Republican challenger Mitt Romney. Romney was accused by President Obama of sheltering his money in Switzerland among other places.

The US has been focusing on bank secrecy which has allowed Americans to hide their money overseas.

Pictet Bank said in a statement:

“Pictet has made it a priority to ensure that its business with U.S. clients complies with all the relevant laws and regulations governing its conduct.”

Pictet Bank has always denied it was being investigated although it has been turning over account information to American Authorities since 2010.

UBS was the first Swiss bank to come under scrutiny by the U.S. authorities in a tax evasion crackdown, an investigation it settled in 2009 by handing over client data, admitting wrongdoing, and paying a $780 million fine to avert prosecution. US officials have subsequently mined the UBS data as well as a flood of voluntary disclosures by US citizens and have widened their investigation to other Swiss banks, including Credit Suisse and Julius Baer.

Switzerland has been trying to reach a deal with the US government in which it will force its banks to turn over client information and pay fines. America has also been cracking down on other tax shelters and doing their best to force Americans do declare their assets over seas.