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UBS whistle-blower gets 40 month-sentence

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla., Aug. 21 (UPI) -- Former UBS banker Bradley Birkenfeld, who blew the whistle on the Swiss bank and its customers, was sentenced to 40 months in jail Friday.

The judge socked it to Birkenfeld, giving him a sentence 10 months longer than the prosecution sought and more severe than probation the defense requested, The Miami Herald reported.

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The prosecutors said Birkenfeld, of Weymouth, Mass., is still helping the government and will remain free until Jan. 8.

In the federal courthouse in Fort Lauderdale, U.S. District Judge William Zloch also ordered Birkenfeld to pay a $30,000 fine and serve three years of probation once he is released from prison.

To assist wealthy Americans who concealed assets at UBS in Switzerland, Birkenfeld admitted he and others advised U.S. clients to place cash and valuables in Swiss safety deposit boxes, buy luxury items using funds in their Swiss accounts; misrepresent money from the accounts as loans and destroy off-shore bank records existing in the United, among other things.

"To those taxpayers who have illegally hidden their income in foreign bank accounts and to those who have illegally helped clients hide income and assets, today's sentencing serves as notice: come in and completely come clean," said John A. DiCicco, acting assistant attorney general of the Justice Department's Tax Division.

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The National Whistleblowers Center in Washington expressed concern that the length of Birkenfeld's sentence could discourage future whistle-blowers.

"It stuns me that the reward for a whistle-blower who shined the light on extensive tax fraud and corruption is being sent to jail," said Dean Zerbe, center's special counsel. "Without Mr. Birkenfeld coming forward, the U.S. would not be where it is today in cracking open secret Swiss bank accounts."

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