Lucifer’s Banker by Bradley C Birkenfeld

Lucifer’s Banker by Bradley C BirkenfeldLucifer’s Banker: The Untold Story of How I Destroyed Swiss Bank Secrecy by Bradley C. Birkenfeld
Published by Greenleaf Book Group Press on November 1st 2016
Genres: Biography
Pages: 344
Format: Ebook
Source: NetGalley

As a private banker working for the largest bank in the world, UBS, Bradley Birkenfeld was an expert in Switzerland’s shell-game of offshore companies and secret numbered accounts. He wined and dined ultrawealthy clients whose millions of dollars were hidden away from business partners, spouses, and tax authorities. As his client list grew, Birkenfeld lived a life of money, fast cars, and beautiful women, but when he discovered that UBS was planning to betray him, he blew the whistle to the US Government.

Lucifer’s Banker is an insider’s look at the world of high finance, Swiss bank accounts, and tax evasion by the rich and infamous. The author is a whistleblower who formerly worked for a number of Swiss, and European banks before blowing the whistle on them, and their American clients – a decision which would backfire on him in the short-term.

I must admit a slight fascination with the mythology of the ‘Swiss unnumbered bank account’ – and I had not heard the author before reading this book, so I was not aware of the history of his case. I will confess that I went through a rollercoaster of emotion towards the author – at first I was sympathetic towards him, given what he – on the face of it anyway – was trying to do by bringing the evidence of gross tax evasion to the government, only to have them turn on him and send him to prison. The US does not have a particularly good track record of how it treats whistleblowers – from Julian Assange, to Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden – but I wasn’t sure I would put Bradley Birkenfeld in the same category.

The author spends a great deal of time revelling in the vainglory of his lifestyle as a Swiss banker, with its attendant jet setting lifestyle and wealth, and makes little effort to endear himself to the reader. I questioned his motivations for ultimately turning whistleblower, which seemed to be that his employers were trying to set he and his colleagues up for illegal or illicit institutional practices, and he wasn’t going to take the fall for it. Frankly the middle third of the book is given over to crying ‘poor me’ while he is let down by his lawyers and his government, and I just didn’t care a feather or a fig. Although he did get sent to jail, he ultimately got his ‘revenge’ if you wish.

I had some really mixed emotions about this book – I don’t think it was as detailed about the inner workings of the banking system as I had hoped, and felt like little more than a puff piece about how amazing the author believes he is, and how through corrupt officials, the government screwed him over.

I really struggle to recommend an audience for this book – I guess if you had more of an interest in whistleblowers, or the banking sector – you may find this interesting, but this is definitely a rose-tinted autobiography that will probably leave you hating the author. I think it lacks a certain objectivity that I was looking for in a subject like this.

I received a copy from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Rating Report
Overall: three-stars

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