Kenneth Rijock

Kenneth Rijock

Sunday, January 11, 2015

FEDERAL JUDGE DENIES FUGITIVE SWISS BANKER RIGHT TO IN ABSENTIA BOND HEARING

A US District Judge in New York has denied the request of Stefan Buck, a Swiss banker wanted in the United States for assisting American taxpayers in hiding their assets abroad, for the opportunity to have a bond hearing in his case, in his physical absence. Buck was indicted in 2013, but Switzerland does not extradite its nationals for tax offenses. He was a banker at one of the Swiss financial institutions accused of assisting American tax cheats, Bank Frey & Co.,  and which hurriedly closed its doors in 2013, when it came under criminal investigation in the United States.  .

Buck's attorneys had taken the unusual step of filing a motion for a bond hearing, while his client was a fugitive, he wanted to clear his name by participating in the trial. His position:

(1) Buck was in Switzerland when the indictment was issued; he did not flee the United States, and therefore was not a fugitive, citing  Southern District of New York and Second Circuit decisions.

(2) He would post a "reasonable bond package, " and appear when and as required by the Court, but wanted the right to leave the US when not needed. He objected to the Government's requirement that he remain within the Continental United States until the case was tried.

(3) His counsel asserted that the bond statute does not preclude his absence from the bond hearing, and cited a Southern District of Florida case, United States vs. Ogiermann*, in support of that argument.

The Court considered the response of the US Attorney's Office, and this week entered its ruling denying the defendant's motion, holding:

(A) Stefan Buck is a fugitive; the Court cited 2nd Circuit and SD NY case law, distinguished Ogiermann, and noted that when a defendant, who is outside the country when an indictment is announced, and where thereafter declines to return, has committed "constructive flight."

(B) The Fugitive Disentitlement Doctrine applies; A fugitive cannot pursue actions that may benefit him, while at the same time evading actions that might sanction him in the same court.

(C) The Federal Bail Statute shows that personal appearances in court must must precede applications for bail. The statute instructs that a defendant must appear in court before the judicial officer decides whether to grant bail.

Was the defendant's motion pure Swiss banker arrogance, or a good faith effort, by counsel, to obtain a workable pre-trial arrangement for his client, that would allow him to avoid a long stay in the United States prior to trial ? Whatever you think the truth is, the Court's ruling was eminently correct. The ruling discussed, at length the problems which would ensue, should fugitive defendants have the ability to apply for favorable bail from afar, and decline to accept the terms, should they not like the court decision. Defendants much subject themselves to the personal jurisdiction of the court to make application for bail.

 Stefan Buck will, most likely, continue to remain in Switzerland, outside the long arm of American justice, joining a number of other Swiss banker fugitives. There is reportedly an INTERPOL Red Card issued, though, so any international travel he undertakes may place him in custody, and back in the news.
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* Case No.: 10-cr-80157 (SD FL). Order Setting Conditions of Pre-Trial Release. This appears to be an unreported case.

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