Indian-American Pleads Guilty to Hiding Indian Bank Accounts

By Arun Kumar

Washington, April 12 (IANS) An Indian-American businessman has pleaded guilty to conspiring with five HSBC bankers to keep his Indian accounts "below the radar" to evade taxes in the United States.

Vaibhav Dahake, 44, pleaded guilty in a federal court in Trenton, New Jersey, Monday to one count of conspiring to defraud the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

Dahake, who became a naturalised US citizen in 2006, faces up to five years in prison, but a plea deal outlines a federal prison sentence ranging from 10 to 18 months, restitution and other penalties. The judge will have the final say at sentencing, scheduled for July 22.

Dahake admitted that from 2001 through 2010 he maintained undeclared bank accounts in India that he failed to report.

After receiving an unsolicited letter in 2001 that advertised bank accounts in India that paid hefty interest, he met with a banker in New York, officials said.

Dahake was told he did not have to submit a Social Security number and that the bank, HSBC Holdings of India, would not inform the IRS, authorities said.

The indictment, filed in January, lists three unnamed US bankers and two in India who are identified as co-conspirators but not defendants in the criminal action.

Dahake was doing business with HSBC NRI Services for non-resident Indians, which "encouraged US citizens to open undeclared bank accounts in India," according to the indictment. NRI stands for, federal authorities said.

On March 28, 2010, Dahake filed a 2009 tax form in which he failed to notify the IRS of any "signature authority" he had over foreign accounts, according to the indictment.

Dahake also owned unregistered accounts in the British Virgin Islands, although those accounts were not the subject of Monday's plea, according to court documents.

According to a plea agreement signed by Dahake in November, the tax loss to the IRS fell between $30,000 and $80,000.

Dahake's guilty plea came four days after a US judge in California gave permission to the IRS to serve a so-called John Doe summons on HSBC for information about Americans who may have banked in India to hide accounts from the IRS.

Dahake was the first taxpayer charged in a crackdown focusing on whether HSBC helped clients with Indian accounts hide assets from the IRS.


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