Convicted mortgage-fraudster sentenced in hit plot

Posted Feb. 06, 2012, at 8:40 p.m.

NEW YORK — Convicted of engineering a $100 million mortgage-fraud scheme, Aaron Hand was yearning for vengeance and stuck in prison, prosecutors said.

So from behind bars, he plotted to have a key witness against him killed. He hired an undercover investigator posing as a hit man, issued instructions to make the murder look like a gang attack and said he wished he could be there to see the witness suffer, prosecutors said.

Hand was sentenced Monday to an additional eight to 16 years in prison for the contract-killing scheme, on top of the eight years and four months to 25 years he’s serving in the mortgage fraud.

Hand’s “actions strike at the heart of the justice system,” Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. said when the former AFG Financial Group Inc. president pleaded guilty last month to conspiring to commit murder.

Hand, 40, acknowledged he began in July to try to arrange the slaying of one of the people who had cooperated with prosecutors and testified against him at his 2010 trial.

Swiss bank Julius Baer expects fine in US tax case

GENEVA — Swiss bank Julius Baer Group said Monday that it might have to pay a fine to settle allegations it helped American clients cheat on their taxes, but cautioned investors that the final outcome of the case was still uncertain.

Zurich-based Julius Baer is one of at least 11 Swiss banks under pressure from the U.S. to give up tax-evading American customers and the bankers who aided them. Last month, Switzerland’s oldest bank, Wegelin & Co, announced it was selling most of its business after it was indicted in the U.S. with conspiring to help American clients hide more than $1.2 billion from the Internal Revenue Service.

“We’re in ongoing full cooperation and dialogue with the U.S. authorities and we’re confident and committed that we will find a solution,” Julius Baer’s Chief Executive Boris Collardi said during the presentation of the bank’s full-year results Monday.

Collardi said he was unable to predict the size of any fine his bank might face in the United States, and whether Julius Baer too might face legal action.

Former Royal Bank CEO stripped of knighthood in scrutiny of British banking practices

LONDON — The British government’s decision to strip former Royal Bank of Scotland Group Chief Executive Officer Fred Goodwin of his knighthood reflects a turning point for bankers as politicians and voters step up criticism of pay and performance.

Last week’s announcement came just two days after Goodwin’s successor at the Edinburgh-based bank, Stephen Hester, waived a 963,000-pound ($1.5 million) bonus after pressure from lawmakers and the media. Goodwin was punished for leading the 285-year-old lender into the world’s biggest bank bailout, while Hester was slammed because RBS’s share price has slumped in the past year. Voices from across the political spectrum said the behavior of bankers has to change.

“This is a watershed 48 hours which dramatizes the urgent need for financial services to re-earn legitimacy with the rest of civil society,” said Will Hutton, a former director of the Work Foundation research group and author of “The State We’re In,” the 1995 book that advocated less reliance on finance. “For three years, bankers have lived in a parallel universe,” he said in a telephone interview.

Prime Minister David Cameron’s government and the opposition Labour Party have found a common cause as they press for more restraint from banks that had to be bailed out by the taxpayer, sparking an economic downturn and a record budget deficit. As public-sector jobs are cut, pay is frozen and the economy teeters on the brink of a second recession, the finance industry is facing a backlash.

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