Israel’s third-largest bank, Mizrahi Tefahot, has become the third bank in the Jews-only state to be fined millions of dollars by the US Justice Department after admitting to helping Jews avoid paying tax in America by hiding money in Israel.
The bank engaged in schemes to hide clients’ funds so they could avoid paying US income taxes between 2002 and 2012, the Justice Department said.
Under the settlement, Mizrahi Tefahot, accepted responsibility for the actions of former employees, the Israeli business daily Globes reported.
The employees worked in private banking and customer relations between 2002 and 2012.
In August, the bank rejected a proposal from the Justice Department to pay a fine of $342 million to settle the tax evasion investigation, saying it was not a “reasonable calculation.”
In a quarterly earnings report in August, the bank said it had set aside 425 million shekels ($117.75 million) during the quarter to cover a likely fine by U.S. authorities. The bank had previously set aside 161.9 million shekels ($44.86 million).
The bank noted that it “held intensive talks with US authorities” since rejecting the offer in August.
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The Justice Department said the $195 million payment includes $53 million in restitution, $24 million in disgorgement, and a fine of $118 million.
Moshe Vidman, chairman of the bank’s board, said he was satisfied the negotiations yielded positive results and led to an agreed settlement.
Mizrahi Tefahot is not the first Israeli bank to be caught out with this tax avoidance racket which is unique to the Jews-only state because of the dual-nationality status of so many Jews in America.
Larger rival Bank Leumi underwent a similar investigation and paid $400 million in fines to US authorities in late 2014.
In addition, Hapoalim, one of Israel’s two largest banks along with Leumi, last week said it would set aside an additional $246 million to cover a potential settlement of a US investigation into tax evasion by “the bank’s clients.”
This provision, to be taken in the fourth quarter of 2018, will bring its total provisions to $611 million, while Hapoalim said it had held talks with US justice officials in recent weeks. It added that the settlement amount may even be significantly higher.