US authorities investigating Singapore asset manager in offshore tax evasion crackdown, says WSJ

The backdrop of the Central Business District in Singapore. Criminal investigators from the US Internal Revenue Service are investigating whether a Singapore asset-management firm accepted transfers from undeclared Swiss accounts closed by US taxpaye
The backdrop of the Central Business District in Singapore. Criminal investigators from the US Internal Revenue Service are investigating whether a Singapore asset-management firm accepted transfers from undeclared Swiss accounts closed by US taxpayers, the Wall Street Journal reported. ST PHOTO: STEPHANIE YEOW

SINGAPORE - Criminal investigators from the US Internal Revenue Service (IRS) are investigating whether a Singapore asset-management firm accepted transfers from undeclared Swiss accounts closed by US taxpayers, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Lawyers who spoke to the Journal on the matter declined to name the Singapore firm being probed but said a handful of clients were being questioned about the asset manager.

In its online report on Sunday, the Journal said the investigation marks an expansion east of the US crackdown on undeclared offshore accounts that began in Switzerland in 2009.

Since then, US officials have pursued banks and individual "enablers," such as lawyers or asset managers, that have helped US taxpayers hide money abroad in Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Israel, India and the Caribbean.

But until now, "there was little indication they had widened their probe to Southeast Asia or Hong Kong," the Journal said.

The paper quoted Bryan Skarlatos, a lawyer with Kostelanetz & Fink in New York, as saying that the IRS and US Justice Department "seem be turning their focus east, where there are many US taxpayers with accounts. The law firm has represented nearly 2,000 taxpayers with undeclared offshore accounts, the Journal added.

Since the US crackdown on offshore-account tax evasion began in 2009, more than 50,000 people have entered a special IRS limited-amnesty program for individuals with offshore accounts, said the Journal.

They have paid more than US$7 billion to resolve their cases, while banks in Switzerland and elsewhere have paid more than US$4 billion to resolve theirs, with more to come, the paper added.