Bank Leumi
Bank LeumiFlash 90

Israel's Bank Leumi Group has admitted to helping American taxpayers hide assets and agreed to pay a $270 million fine to settle a criminal probe, the Department of Justice announced Monday, according to the AFP news agency.

From at least 2000 until early 2011, Bank Leumi sent private bankers from Israel and elsewhere to meet with U.S. taxpayers and help them conceal assets at Leumi locations in Israel, Switzerland and Luxembourg.

Leumi, a unit of Bank Leumi le-Israel, also helped U.S. taxpayers prepare and present false tax returns, prosecutors said, according to the report.

As part of a deferred prosecution agreement, Leumi agreed to supply information on more than 1,500 American account holders.

"The Bank Leumi Group recognized that the writing is on the wall for offshore banking, and cooperating with the government's investigation was the only way to proceed," Deputy Attorney General James Cole was quoted as having said.

"This deferred prosecution agreement demonstrates both that the Justice Department will hold financial institutions accountable for their crimes, and that we will be fair in recognizing extraordinary cooperation," he added.

The Justice Department said the case marks the first time an Israeli bank has admitted to such criminal conduct.