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Important Tax Fraud Trial Affecting Offshore Accounts Begins

Trial began recently in the case of two hotel developers who are accused by the IRS of hiding more than $150 million in offshore bank accounts. Mauricio Cohen Assor, 77, and his son, Leon Cohen Levy, 46, are accused of conspiring to defraud the IRS and filing false tax returns. This will be the first big Swiss bank account secrecy case that has gone to trial since the IRS obtained information on American account holders at the Swiss bank UBS. Orange County tax fraud attorneys are watching the trial closely.

The IRS claims the defendants hid ownership of a $26 million Miami Beach home and another valued at $20 million. Also they allegedly never declared $45 million in investments, commercial properties worth $55 million and cars like a Rolls-Royce Phantom, a Porsche Carrera GT and a Ferrari Testarossa.

Defense lawyers are expected to try to show that Assor and Levy never meant to break the law, that they had a good faith belief that what they did was lawful.

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Tax fraud defense experts point out that typically, when the government has evidence of tax non-compliance, that evidence difficult to refute. However, the complexities of the case may be helpful to Cohen Assor and his son. It may be difficult for the government to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that they knowingly and willingly disregarded what they knew to be the law. Technical complexity tends to lend itself to reasonable doubt.

The case is USA v. Assor, 10-cr-60159, U.S. District Court, Southern District of Florida (Fort Lauderdale).

Source: Bloomberg Business Week "Father-Son Developers' Miami Tax-Fraud Trial Begins" 9/13/2010

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