Raoul Weil, a 54-year-old Swiss citizen, had been charged five years ago with helping thousands of Americans to avoid their US tax obligations by making use of accounts at UBS, where he had been in charge of global wealth management. Estimates of the amount of money held in such accounts have been put at around $20bn (£12bn).
Weil has maintained his innocence from the start. He had managed to remain out of reach of the US justice system until October, when he was arrested while on holiday in Italy, and subsequently extradited to face trial.
A February 18 date for the Weil trial has now been set. Until then, Weil, who is the highest-ranking banker thus far charged by the US in connection with its crackdown on tax evasion, is free on $10.5m bail.
The Weil case is one of many side stories to an ongoing saga between the US Justice Department and Switzerland's banking industry, which has seen more than a dozen Swiss banks subject to US scrutiny for their alleged role in helping Americans to use Swiss accounts to evade taxes.
In 2009, UBS was obliged to pay a fine of more than $750m and hand over to the US government the names of more than 4,000 clients. Another Swiss bank, Wegelin & Co, announced it was to close after it pleaded guilty to helping Americans evade taxes and paying a $58m fine.
At the same time, Switzerland has been working with the US to agree a way for its financial institutions to comply with the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA), the key provisions of which are due to come into force later this year.
The saga has made household names – at least in certain circles – of Weil and Bradley Birkenfeld, another UBS banker, whose disclosures to US officials in 2005 helped them to build their case against the bank as well as other Swiss financial insitutions with American clients with unreported accounts. A measure of Weil and Birkenfeld's fame is that they both have fairly detailed Wikipedia listings, although Weil's has not yet been updated to reflect yesterday's events.