Attorneys for Bradley Birkenfeld, the Swiss banker who exposed the massive ($20 billion) tax evasion scandal at UBS, Stephen M. Kohn and Dean Zerbe wrote an op-ed piece entitled “April 15 Plea: Pardon Tax Whistleblower” published on Forbes.com. Mr. Kohn and Mr. Zerbe criticize the Department of Justice decision to prosecute Mr. Birkenfeld and list the negative consequences of putting the whistleblower in jail, including the radical chilling effect that discourages other potential whistleblowers from coming forward, a major step backwards in the fight against corruption and billions of dollars in tax revenue lost.
The attorneys wrote:
Mr. Birkenfeld’s whistleblowing put a big dent in these secret offshore accounts, but there is lots more out there. It took an insider to blow the whistle the first time and it is going to take another insider to do it again as account holders, especially the most flagrant tax evaders, are now moving monies to banks with even greater secrecy. When the government cannot stop offshore tax evasion, it is the honest American taxpayer who has to foot the bill.
The Forbes piece appeared the day before April 15, the deadline for Americans to file their taxes. Mr. Birkenfeld filed his official petition for clemency today, and the National Whistleblowers Center has launched an international letter writing campaign on behalf of Mr. Birkenfeld. To write a letter, click here.
Mr. Kohn and Mr. Zerbe also submitted a direct appeal to President Obama, requesting that he pardon Mr. Birkenfeld on Tax Day as a symbol of support for the American taxpayers. According to Birkenfeld’s attorneys:
Mr. Birkenfeld has served enough time. Today is the day for President Obama to use his pardon power to ensure that ‘justice’ does not come at the cost of what is in the best interest of the American taxpayers.
*Philip Barrett (NWC Intern) & Meryl Grenadier (NWC Fellow) contributed to this post