Bradley Birkenfeld, a former banker at UBS, served two and a half years in prison for conspiring with a wealthy California developer to evade U.S. income taxes. Now the Internal Revenue Service said the information he provided has been so helpful that he will get a $104 million whistle-blower award for revealing the secrets of the Swiss banking system, reports the New York Times. By divulging schemes that UBS used to encourage American citizens to dodge their taxes, Birkenfeld, 47, led to an investigation that has greatly diminished Switzerland's status as a secret haven for American tax cheats and allowed the Treasury to recover billions in unpaid taxes.
In addition to paying $780 million in 2009 to avoid criminal prosecution, the bank turned over account information regarding more than 4,500 American clients. The disclosure of Swiss banking information set off such a panic among wealthy Americans that more than 14,000 joined a tax amnesty program. IRS officials say the amnesty program has helped recover more than $5 billion in unpaid taxes. Birkenfeld's award, the largest ever paid by the IRS, is a milestone for the agency's whistle-blower program, which offers informants rewards of up to 30 percent of any fines and unpaid taxes recouped by the government. The size of the Birkenfeld award could lead to many more whistleblower reports.