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Art collector is charged in record offshore tax fraud case
By Stephanie Kirchgaessner in Washington
Published: February 28 2005 21:45 | Last updated: February 28 2005 21:45
An American businessman alleged to have hidden nearly half a billion dollars in earnings in offshore accounts has been arrested by US authorities and charged with tax evasion, obstructing the Internal Revenue Service and fraud.
It is the biggest criminal tax fraud prosecution in US history.
Walter Anderson, a telecommunications entrepreneur who used the pseudonym Mark Roth, was arrested on Saturday at Washington's Dulles airport after arriving from London.
He was charged with evading more than $200m in taxes over five years and faces up to 80 years in prison if found guilty. He reportedly pleaded innocent.
An art collector who frequented Christie's in New York and London, Mr Anderson allegedly hid more than $450m in profits from federal and local authorities by creating an elaborate network of offshore investment companies, disguising his ownership of the two primary companies Gold & Appel and Iceberg Transport and concealing his US citizenship.
Mr Anderson also allegedly set up two accounts at Barclays Bank in Jersey, falsely stated he was a citizen of the Dominican Republic, and used private mailing addresses in the Netherlands to evade tax.
Mark Everson, commissioner of the IRS, on Monday acknowledged that the US tax authority's efforts to pursue tax evaders had declined in the mid-1990s.
But he said Monday's news was a sign that the IRS was getting back on track. The IRS and Justice Department said they received co-operation from four unidentified countries during its investigation of Mr Anderson but they refused to comment on what prompted the investigation.
The indictment indicates that tax authorities have been pursuing the case since an audit in April 1998.
According to the charges, Mr Anderson transferred his holdings in three telecommunications companies Mid-Atlantic Telecom, Esprit Telecom and Telco Communications to G&A and Iceberg in the early 1990s. It is claimed that each investment became much more valuable in the ensuing years, generating enough profit to enable Mr Anderson to invest in other companies and reap a $450m profit for G&A and Iceberg between 1995 and 1999.
Only a fraction of this was reported to the IRS and local Washington tax authorities.
During the years he was allegedly evading federal and local income tax, Mr Anderson is also claimed to have failed to pay tax on the pieces of artwork and jewellery. According to his indictment, he also failed to file tax forms on two paintings he purchased.
One was a $1.2m René Magritte painting, “La Peine Perdu”, which he bought at Christie's in New York in 1998, and a $516,618 painting by Salvador Dali,“Le Bateau Echoue”, which he bought at Christie's in Londonin 1998.
The most valuable commodity I know of is information