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Prominent Indian American doc convicted for tax cheating

August 24, 2012 02:58 IST

A prominent Indian American neurosurgeon, Dr Arvind Ahuja, of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, has been convicted for hiding $8 million (about Rs 44.8 crore) in secret offshore accounts in India, and is scheduled to be sentenced on January 13, 2013.

The Department of Justice and the Internal Revenue Service announced on Thursday that Ahuja had been convicted by a jury the day before on federal tax charges stemming from his failure to disclose offshore bank accounts maintained in India and the Bailiwick of Jersey.

Ahuja's trial began on August 15 before US District Judge Charles N Clevert, Jr., in Milwaukee. Ahuja, was convicted of one count of filing a false 2009 individual income tax return and one count of failing to file a Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts.

According to the evidence presented at trial, Ahuja transferred millions of dollars from bank accounts in the United States to undeclared bank accounts located in India at the HSBC bank.

Ahuja invested the funds in these accounts in certificates of deposit, which earned more than $2.7 million (about Rs 15.12 crore) in interest income during the years 2005 through 2009.

Ahuja also maintained an HSBC bank account in the Bailiwick of Jersey, a British Crown dependency located in the Channel Islands off the coast of Normandy, France.

The DOJ and IRS said Ahuja used credit and debit cards linked to this account to pay personal expenses while on trips to London and had managed his offshore accounts with the assistance of bankers who worked at an HSBC India representative office in New York.

The evidence established that for tax year 2009, he had filed a false tax return with the IRS that failed to report the interest income earned on his certificates of deposit at HSBC India, and failed to report he had signature authority over bank accounts located in India and Jersey.

It said, Ahuja also failed to file an FBAR for 2009 to report his offshore accounts to the IRS and noted that his accountant testified that Ahuja never disclosed the existence of his offshore accounts during the preparation of his tax returns.

United States citizens and residents who have an interest in, or signature or other authority over, a financial account in a foreign country with assets in excess of $10,000 are required to disclose the existence of such account on Schedule B, Part III, of their individual income tax returns.

Additionally, US citizens and residents must file an FBAR with the United States Treasury disclosing any financial account in a foreign country with assets in excess of $10,000 in which they have a financial interest, or over which they have signature or other authority.

James L Santelle, US Attorney for the Eastern District of Wisconsin, said, "This prosecution reflects the continuing commitment of the United States Department of Justice, including my office and the Tax Division, to identify, investigate and prosecute individuals who fail to abide by well-established obligations to report and pay on their tax indebtedness."

"In combination with the Internal Revenue Service, we are committed to enforcing the tax laws fairly and even-handedly, and the jury's verdict in this case appropriately reflects the understanding of all law-abiding citizens that underreporting income and failing to report foreign bank accounts will not be tolerated," Santelle said.

Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General for Justice Department's Tax Division John A DiCicco, said, "This case is a warning to individuals who still think they can use offshore bank accounts to commit tax crimes."

He said, "Citizens who honestly report their income and pay their taxes can take comfort that the Department of Justice is committed to the prosecution of tax cheats who use these offshore accounts."

Aziz Haniffa in Washington, DC