US Justice Department: Bank Leumi admitted to helping Israelis to hide money

US Justice Department: Bank Leumi admitted to helping Israelis to hide money
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US Justice Department: Bank Leumi admitted to helping Israelis to hide money

Los Angeles Man Pleads Guilty to Not Reporting Over $1 Million Held in Israeli Offshore Accounts

A Los Angeles man pleaded guilty today in U.S. District Court for the Central District of California to willfully failing to file a Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts (FBAR), which would have disclosed his foreign bank accounts, announced Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Richard E. Zuckerman of the Justice Department’s Tax Division.

According to court documents, Ben Zion Birman, of Los Angeles, California held offshore accounts in Israel at Bank Leumi Le-Israel B.M. from 2006 to 2011. Birman willfully failed to file with the Department of Treasury an FBAR for calendar year 2010, despite having over $1 million in Bank Leumi accounts.  In an effort to further hide his money, Birman instructed Bank Leumi to hold bank mail from delivery to the United States, and obtained access to his offshore funds through the use of “back-to-back” loans, which were designed to enable borrowers to tap their concealed accounts.  These lending arrangements permitted Birman to have funds issued by Leumi’s U.S. branch that were secretly secured by funds in his undeclared accounts in Israel.

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In December 2014, Bank Leumi entered into a deferred prosecution agreement after the bank admitted to conspiring from at least 2000 until early 2011 to aid and assist U.S. taxpayers to prepare and present false tax returns by hiding income and assets in offshore bank accounts in Israel and other locations around the world.  Under the terms of the deferred prosecution agreement, Bank Leumi paid the United States a total of $270 million and continues to cooperate with respect to civil and criminal tax investigations.

U.S. citizens, resident aliens, and permanent legal residents with a foreign financial interest in or signatory authority over a foreign financial account worth more than $10,000 are required to file an FBAR each year disclosing the account.

Birman faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison, as well as a period of supervised release, restitution and monetary penalties. Birman’s sentencing is scheduled for December 10, 2018.

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“The Department of Justice is committed to vigorously investigating and prosecuting offshore account holders who maintain undeclared accounts and willfully ignore their U.S. reporting and tax obligations,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Zuckerman.

Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Zuckerman commended special agents from IRS-Criminal Investigation, who are investigating the case, and Tax Division Trial Attorneys Leslie Goemaat and Melissa Schraibman Grinberg, who are prosecuting the case. The Tax Division thanks the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Central District of California for its assistance.

Additional information about the Tax Division and its enforcement efforts may be found on the division’s website.

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RAY HANANIA — Columnist

Ray Hanania is an award winning political and humor columnist who analyzes American and Middle East politics, and life in general. He is an author of several books.

"I write about three topics, the Middle East, politics and life in general. I often take my life experiences and offer them in an entertaining way to readers, and I take on the toughest topics like the Israel-Palestine conflict and don't pull any punches about what I feel is fair. But, my priority is always about writing the good story."

Hanania covered Chicago Politics and Chicago City Hall from 1976 through 1992. Hanania began writing in 1975 when he published The Middle Eastern Voice newspaper in Chicago (1975-1977). He later published “The National Arab American Times” newspaper which was distributed through 12,500 Middle East food stores in 48 American States (2004-2007).

Hanania writes weekly columns on Middle East and American Arab issues for the Arab News in Saudi Arabia at www.ArabNews.com, Middle East Monitor in London, the TheArabDailyNews.com, www.TheDailyHookah.com and at SuburbanChicagoland.com. He has also published weekly columns in the Jerusalem Post newspaper, YNetNews.com, Newsday Newspaper in New York, the Orlando Sentinel Newspapers, and the Arlington Heights Daily Herald.

Palestinian, American Arab and Christian, Hanania’s parents originate from Jerusalem and Bethlehem.

Hanania is the recipient of four (4) Chicago Headline Club “Peter Lisagor Awards” for Column writing. In November 2006, he was named “Best Ethnic American Columnist” by the New American Media. In 2009, Hanania received the prestigious Sigma Delta Chi Award for Writing from the Society of Professional Journalists. He is the recipient of the MT Mehdi Courage in Journalism Award. He was honored for his writing skills with two (2) Chicago Stick-o-Type awards from the Chicago Newspaper Guild. In 1990, Hanania was nominated by the Chicago Sun-Times editors for a Pulitzer Prize for his four-part series on the Palestinian Intifada.

His writings have also been honored by two national Awards from ADC for his writing, and from the National Arab American Journalists Association.

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