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O.C. billionaire alleges deception by UBS

September 18, 2008|From the Associated Press

SANTA ANA — An Orange County billionaire who pleaded guilty to filing a false tax return involving foreign banking accounts filed a lawsuit alleging that Swiss bank UBS duped him into skirting U.S. tax laws.

Real estate developer Igor Olenicoff filed the lawsuit Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Santa Ana, accusing the bank of telling him his fortune would be invested in accordance with U.S. tax laws, then hiding it in offshore entities.

The lawsuit carries similar accusations against financial entities in Liechtenstein, where UBS allegedly moved Olenicoff's $200 million in investments.

"When you're told by professionals, 'Trust us: we're experts in this field,' how many more professionals do you have to go to before you say I trust you?" said William J. King, Olenicoff's attorney.

Karina Byrne, a spokeswoman for UBS in New York, declined to comment on the allegations.

"We intend to vigorously defend ourselves in this litigation," she said.

The lawsuit, which seeks $500 million in compensation and damages, also accuses officials at some of the foreign businesses of investing Olenicoff's savings in risky investments against his will.

In July, a U.S. Senate subcommittee accused UBS and a Liechtenstein bank of helping wealthy Americans evade billions in taxes each year.

That was a month after former UBS private banker Bradley Birkenfeld pleaded guilty to defrauding the Internal Revenue Service. Birkenfeld has said UBS has about $20 billion in assets in undeclared accounts for U.S. taxpayers.

The IRS has asked the Swiss government for help in its investigation of possible tax evasion by the U.S. clients of UBS.

The bank has said it is cooperating with Swiss and U.S. investigations and will disclose records involving U.S. clients who might have broken tax laws.

Olenicoff pleaded guilty last year and paid $52 million to the IRS in back taxes, penalties and interest.

He was sentenced to two years' probation and 120 hours of community service.

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