Identity theft is a massive problem for US citizens, but what happens when fraud moves offshore? According to Michael Quiel’s experience, you will be not helped. In fact, you run the risk of US-government prosecution.
As Quiel describes in his book, Rigged,in 2006 he was seeking to attract European investors. Up to this point, Quiel and his business partner had overseen approximately $200 million of successful financing deals in the United States.
Christopher Rusch, Quiel’s tax attorney, was establishing a Swiss bank during this time. He proposed that Quiel and his partner invest in Rusch’s startup to give them access to otherwise unavailable European investors. The potential for such lucrative markets motivated Quiel to purchase a minority interest in the venture. From the start, Quiel had no intent for a management or control position with Rusch’s bank, and this was the main reason he kept his investment small.
Swiss banking laws at the time allowed a person to open up an account with merely a photocopy of anyone’s passport, even if the passport holder wasn’t present. Without telling his client, Rusch used his Swiss banking connections and a copy of Quiel’s passport to open a holding account under his client’s name with UBS and Banque Pictet & Cie.
The identity fraud on an international level proved catastrophic for Quiel. Rather than the US government help its swindled taxpayer, the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the IRS indicted him. They accused Quiel of seeking to hide income. During the criminal trial, Swiss representatives of UBS and Banque Pictet & Cie testified that, according to how Swiss bank accounts were set up and protected, Quiel had no access to the accounts Rusch had opened using his client’s passport.
“I had no idea what my tax attorney had done. Who would have thought he could take a photocopy of my passport and open up a bank account under my name?” Quiel says. “And because of Swiss banking laws at the time, I had no way to access information about these accounts. Yet that didn’t stop the US government from suing me for avoiding paying taxes through fraudulently opened Swiss bank accounts.”
From LifeLock to credit-monitoring services, protecting American identities is a multi-billion dollar industry. But when criminals open up accounts in foreign countries, the US government’s message is clear: You aren’t protected. In fact, the justice system is rigged against you.