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Financial Times: Top UBS banker detained by US

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*Shell CFO Peter Voser (above) is a director of the scandal and litigation hit Swiss Bank, UBS, which is in meltdown.

Financial Times: Top UBS banker detained by US

By Haig Simonian in Zurich

Published: May 7 2008 00:03 | Last updated: May 7 2008 00:03

One of the most senior private bankers at UBS, the world’s leading wealth manager, has been detained by authorities in the US investigating whether the Swiss bank helped its American clients evade tax.

Martin Liechti, the Zurich-based head of North and South America for UBS’s international wealth management business, was held in connection with a US justice department investigation into investment advice that UBS gave its American private banking clients between 2000 and 2007.

The Swiss lender confirmed on Tuesday that it was also being investigated by the US Securities and Exchange Commission over whether UBS client advisers “engaged in activities in relation to their US-domiciled clients that triggered an obligation for UBS Switzerland to register with the SEC as a broker-dealer and/or investment adviser”.

The bank said it was co-operating with the investigations.

UBS declined to confirm Mr Liechti’s identity, saying only that “a senior UBS employee was briefly detained”. However, the Financial Times has confirmed that the banker was Mr Liechti, who did not return phone calls . Attempts to reach him by e-mail generated a response saying he was “out of the office with limited access to my email”.

UBS said its employee had not been charged with any wrongdoing but had been held “under a ‘material witness’ warrant” in connection with the DoJ investigation and would remain in the US “pending discussions with the US authorities regarding resolution of his status as a witness”.

People close to the situation said the detention was an aggressive tactic and may have been chosen by the authorities to put pressure on UBS and its employees to reveal its business practices. The bank in effect closed its Swiss-based US operation in November but said the move had not followed any specific US regulatory action.

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