FATCA: First-ever conviction signals increased enforcement risk

The former CEO of Saint Vincent-based Loyal Bank pleaded guilty and was convicted on 11 September of conspiring to defraud the United States by failing to comply with the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (“FATCA“). This is the first conviction obtained by the US Department of Justice (DOJ) since FATCA came into effect in 2014 and was the result of a sting operation. The FBI worked with the US Internal Revenue Service (IRS), the US Securities and Exchange Commission, the City of London Police, the UK Financial Conduct Authority and the Hungarian National Bureau of Investigation. The offender’s sentencing date is yet to be scheduled and he is facing a maximum of five years in prison.

This conviction, on the heels of a US governmental report critical of the IRS’s limited use of FATCA, could mark a more active enforcement environment going forward. Under FATCA, certain foreign financial institutions (“FFI“) must report US citizens’ account information to the IRS and the US has intergovernmental agreements with other jurisdictions to facilitate this. The DOJ has indicated that financial institutions in Hong Kong and Singapore are on the US authorities’ priority list in terms of FATCA enforcement. As such, both US citizens and financial institutions in the region should remain cognisant of FATCA’s requirements and ensure compliance.
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