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The key whistleblower in the U.S. government’s case against Swiss banking giant UBS’s offshore banking practices is asking that his 40-month prison sentence be postponed and reconsidered. The motion Bradley Birkenfeld filed over the weekend in U.S. District Court in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., would, if granted, push back the Jan. 8 date on which he is to report to prison and reduce his sentence — which includes a $30,000 fine. The Swiss bank agreed in February to pay a $780 million penalty for trolling for wealthy Americans who wanted to hide assets. About 7,500 U.S. taxpayers came forward under a six-month amnesty program, which expired in October, to report their secret foreign accounts. Others have been prosecuted based on information from Birkenfeld, a former UBS banker. Birkenfeld’s motion noted that the government recommended a 30-month sentence — half the length of the sentencing guideline — given the “substantial assistance” that he gave the government in its investigation. Birkenfeld himself had sought five years of supervised probation including a period of home detention. Birkenfeld said he would use the additional time before reporting to prison to cooperate further with the government in investigations and bringing cases against other UBS clients, though the motion alleges that the government has not sought such cooperation since Birkenfeld’s Aug. 21 sentencing hearing. Birkenfeld went to the Internal Revenue Service two years ago, looking to cash in on a new whistleblower law that would allow him to get up to 30 percent of collections based on his information. But Birkenfeld, an American living in Switzerland, said he could not disclose the identities of his own clients while employed by UBS without violating Swiss banking secrecy laws and facing prosecution there. The Justice Department later learned Birkenfeld helped his biggest client, part-time South Florida resident and real estate tycoon Igor Olenicoff, squirrel away $200 million and evade $7 million in taxes. The billionaire pleaded guilty in December 2007, received two years probation and paid $53 million to the government. Birkenfeld argued that he disclosed Olenicoff’s name prior to being charged by the government, including during sworn testimony to the U.S. Senate. The government has argued that Birkenfeld did not disclose that information. Assistant U.S. Attorney Kevin Downing of Washington, D.C., a prosecutor in Birkenfeld’s case, insisted at the sentencing hearing that Birkenfeld needed to be punished for not being completely forthright about his clients and taking responsibility for his own crimes. If Birkenfeld had disclosed Olenicoff, Downing said prosecutors would have recommended no jail time. Birkenfeld was indicted for helping Olenicoff in May 2008 and was arrested at the Boston airport en route to a high school reunion. He pleaded guilty to tax conspiracy in June 2008. Three Washington-based government watchdog groups say the sentence imposed by U.S. District Judge William Zloch in Fort Lauderdale will discourage other bankers from coming forward to the IRS under a 3-year-old whistleblower law, one of them going so far as to call the Birkenfeld’s sentence “one of the worst setbacks” in the history of international law enforcement. “The government would not have had a case against UBS without Brad Birkenfeld,” Jesselyn Radack, homeland security director for the Government Accountability Project, wrote in an October letter to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder.

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