Fort Lauderdale (United States) (AFP) - A US jury has cleared former UBS banker Raoul Weil of tax fraud after prosecutors failed to show he had conspired to help Americans hide billions of dollars from authorities.
Weil, who was an executive at UBS's global wealth management business, jumped for joy and kissed his wife at the Florida court after jurors returned the not-guilty verdict in less than two hours.
Weil, who had been extradited to the US to stand trial, had faced up to five years in prison if found guilty.
Prosecutors at the Fort Lauderdale trial, which started on October 14, had tried to convince jurors that the 54-year-old Swiss citizen helped US clients conceal $20 billion in assets from tax authorities between 2002 and 2007.
Weil, in his role based in Switzerland, had supervised overseas activities that served some 20,000 customers.
His attorney Matthew Menchel said his client was not aware of any irregularities committed by subordinates.
"There is no document to prove" any wrongdoing, Menchel said during closing arguments.
After the verdict, Menchel told reporters: "This is a case that should never have been brought."
Fired by UBS in April 2009, Weil joined the wealth management firm Reuss Private Group in 2010 as a consultant, then became head of the company in early 2013.
That career came to an end when he was arrested in October 2013 after using his real name to check into a luxury hotel in Bologna, Italy and he was extradited to the United States.
During the trial, Weil seemed relaxed and smiled often.
Prosecutors called several witnesses, mostly former UBS bankers who collaborated with the US government in exchange for immunity.
Menchel had said in court that such witnesses had merely tried to save themselves by incriminating his client.
"Who... should be punished instead of getting sweetheart deals?" Menchel had asked.
Above all, Menchel had criticized Martin Liechti, the former head of UBS operations in America, whose detailed testimony formed the backbone of the case.
During closing arguments, prosecutor Jason Poole had said "this is a simple case."
"Mr Weil as early as 2001 was aware of what this business was about, and it was something he participated in."
UBS has been cooperating with US authorities under an agreement reached in February 2009 that resulted in a $780 million fine.