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Former Swiss banker pleads guilty to U.S. tax evasion

By Douwe Miedema

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A former Swiss banker faces up to five years in jail after pleading guilty to dodging U.S. taxes and paying a $1.5 million fine before being sentenced, the U.S. Department of Justice said on Friday.

Pius Kampfen, who worked for Switzerland's Julius Baer for 40 years and worked in California as the bank's senior West Coast representative of San Francisco, kept accounts at a number of Swiss-based banks until long after he retired in 2001, but failed to report those on his U.S. tax returns.

The United States has been waging a years-long battle against Switzerland over tax evasion, accusing the country of helping Americans to hide income from the taxman through the country's strict bank secrecy laws.

Kampfen, who lived in Mill Valley, California, was the beneficial owner of a number of accounts in the name of Albia Investments at UBS , privately held Pictet, ABN-AMRO, Bank Vontobel and Baumann & Cie between 2000 and June 2012.

"For the years 2007, 2008 and 2009, Kampfen failed to report any of the Albia accounts on his income tax returns ... despite the fact that he knew he was required to do so," the DOJ said.

Sentencing has been scheduled for October 4, and Kampfen faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison. Kampfen's lawyer could not immediately be reached for comment.

The case is being heard in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.

The Swiss parliament this month voted down a plan to hand over the names of American clients and the government is now looking for other ways to pass on the names and avoid the threat of U.S. indictments of Swiss banks.

U.S. authorities have more than a dozen banks under formal investigation, including Credit Suisse , Julius Baer, and the Swiss arm of Britain's HSBC .

Earlier this year the conflict felled Switzerland's oldest private bank, Wegelin & Co, which closed after paying a $58 million fine and pleading guilty to aiding tax evasion.

(Reporting by Douwe Miedema in Washington; Editing by Leslie Adler)

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