The US Department of Justice announced that BBVA Suiza S.A. (BBVA) reaches a solution in the tax dispute with the US under the US Tax Program. The bank, a Category 2 bank, signs a Non-Prosecution Agreement and will pay a penalty of $10.39m.

According to the terms of the NPA, BBVA agrees to cooperate in any related criminal or civil proceedings, demonstrate its implementation of controls to stop misconduct involving undeclared U.S. accounts and pay penalties in return for the department’s agreement not to prosecute this bank for tax-related criminal offenses.

According to the DoJ ‘BBVA also transferred the assets of US-related accounts belonging to certain US taxpayer clients in ways that concealed the U.S. nature of those accounts, such as through cash or check withdrawals, wire transfers and sham transfers to non-US relatives or their nominal accountholders.  In addition, BBVA removed some of its US taxpayer clients’ names as joint-accountholders, leaving only non-US persons as accountholders, or moved their assets into new accounts that were held in the names of non-US persons, including non-US relatives. BBVA thereafter treated such accounts as non-US-related accounts, despite some relationship managers continuing to take and execute instructions given directly from the US taxpayers formerly associated with the accounts, or the US taxpayer clients retaining effective beneficial ownership of the accounts. BBVA followed instructions from US beneficial owners, or their external asset managers, to transfer undeclared assets from US-related accounts to locations throughout the world without knowing or first confirming whether the U.S. beneficial owners were compliant with their US tax obligations’.

Since August, 2008, BBVA maintained 138 US-related accounts with a maximum aggregate value of more than $157m. BBVA will pay a penalty of $10.39m.