A US watchmaker said he hid funds in a Swiss bank account because of “survival behaviour” learned from the Holocaust.
The 65 year-old watchmaker, Jack Barouh, argued his secretive behaviour was motivated by his fear as a Jew of persecution and sudden loss. He is just one of many US citizens being tried for tax evasion who held secret accounts at the Swiss bank, UBS.
The bank last year admitted to the US government it had hundreds of such accounts. Some of these may have aided US citizens avoid paying tax. ‘Hide and hoard’
Mr Barouh had pleaded guilty in February to filing a false tax return which did not include his assets held in a range of non-US accounts. Supported by a doctor’s report, he argued he had developed a “hide and hoard” mentality, something often found in Holocaust survivors and their families.
Both Mr Barouh’s parents survived the killing of Jews during the Second World War and fled Europe. He admitted hiding about $10m (£6.5m) in bank accounts he controlled from 2002 to 2008, not only in Switzerland.
He, alongside hundreds of others, were caught after UBS last year admitted orchestrating tax evasion among rich US clients and paid a $780m fine.
The American Gathering of Holocaust Survivors and their Descendants rejected Mr Barouh’s defence.
It told the Reuters news agency: “Holocaust survivors and their families reject the demeaning assertion that ‘survival behaviour’ learned from the Holocaust could justify illegal evasion of taxes.”
Assistant US Attorney, Jeffrey Neiman, also said the Holocaust defence was no excuse: “It does not give this defendant a license to break the law. Tax fraud is tax fraud.”
Mr Barouh was jailed for 10 months.