The Supreme Court on Monday refused to consider whether the Constitution protects U.S. tax-evasion suspects from having to hand over incriminating bank records on their secret offshore bank accounts.
The court, in a short written order, rejected an appeal by an unnamed suspect, known in court papers only as M.H., whose name was among those given to U.S. officials by Swiss banking giant UBS AG (UBS).
The bank in 2009 admitted to conspiring to defraud the U.S. government of billions of dollars in taxes by helping wealthy U.S. residents hide assets. UBS paid $780 million in a deal to avoid prosecution and eventually released the names of more than 4,000 U.S. clients.
A federal trial court in California held M.H. in contempt after he refused to comply with a subpoena for his personal banking records, which he was required to keep under the federal Bank Secrecy Act.
The court rejected his argument that the Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination protected the documents from disclosure to prosecutors. A San Francisco-based appeals court agreed.
The Supreme Court on Monday let that ruling stand without comment.
M.H. said two other trial courts, in Illinois and Texas, have ruled that similar suspects do not have to turn over such records. He urged the Supreme Court to go ahead and settle the matter, saying there would be a rise in such cases as the Justice Department continues to pursue other Swiss banks for allegedly hiding Americans' assets.
A group of "John and Jane Does," other unnamed suspects that have been subpoenaed for their bank records, also filed a brief urging the court to hear the case.
The Justice Department urged the Supreme Court to stay out of the current case, saying the lower court rulings were correct. The department is challenging the Illinois and Texas rulings in two different U.S. appeals courts.
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