Bradley Birkenfeld was one of the few Americans who held the keys to the kingdom. A Boston-born, high-flying, cross-border banker at Switzerland’s premier financial institution, UBS, he had access to the kind of secret account information that American law enforcement had only dreamed of through all the decades that terrorists, dictators, arms dealers, mafia dons and wealthy tax cheats had hidden behind the fortress of secrecy that Swiss banking promised.
Subterranean bomb-proof vaults and state-of-the-art security systems are the superficial trappings of Swiss banking and its culture of secrecy, but the cornerstone of protection for its clients is the numbered account system that offers all but foolproof privacy. Or so they thought.
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