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Switzerland will not submit the details of Greek account holders in local banks

10 December 2012 / 23:12:34  GRReporter
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The list of Greek account holders in the Swiss branch of HSBC bank or the so-called "Lagarde List" had caused a furore. Then, there was a lawsuit against the publisher of the "Hot Doc" magazine, Kostas Vaxevanis - he was freed from guilt but he will soon sit in the dock again.

The actual work on the use of the data in the list has not yet started. According to an article in Kathimerini newspaper, the services seeking the true account holders on the orders of economic prosecutors are facing serious and almost insurmountable obstacles. At the same time, it appears that the bank has deleted data that are important for the account transactions, which is causing even greater confusion as far as the actual content of the already proverbial list is considered.

According to competent sources to which the edition refers, no evidence has been found to link the name of the mother of former Prime Minister George Papandreou to the deposit amounting to 500 million euro. He is on the list, but a financial fund is presented as the holder of the account instead of an individual person. Sources from the prosecutor’s office argue that the data in the court file does not confirm the statements of the person in charge of the inspections in the service fighting financial crimes, Nikolaos Lekas, that Margarita Papandreou is on the "Lagarde List."

The economic prosecutors believe that the specific statements that have reached them through the testimony of the head of the service, Stelios Stasinopoulos, do not need to be investigated, since the investigation does not prove them.

This is the highest deposit among those described on the "Lagarde List." According to sources, the amounts in some accounts are between 10 and 40 million euro, the amounts deposited in the majority of the accounts being much lower.

But until the investigation of the list starts after a delay of about two years, critical data on the transactions no longer exists, because the bank has deleted it on the basis of the Swiss law, which stipulates that banks should keep the data for not more than 10 years, except for special cases.

Sources of investigating authorities claim that this creates additional and compelling problems in the investigation of the account holders. The accounts on the list were active in the 1990s and the data is for up until 2007, when the HSBC employee stole them illegally.

The economic prosecutors expect to receive the original list from the French Ministry of Finance in order to determine whether the copy in their hands has been fabricated. If the inspection shows that there were "corrections," the entire course of the investigation will change for the politicians who were involved in the process of receiving and submitting the list and for the former heads of the service fighting financial crimes, who are under investigation for not using the data in the list.

The court files for the acts or omissions of the former ministers of finance George Papakonstantinou and Evangelos Venizelos connected with the use of the "Lagarde List" are already in parliament and will be discussed on the basis of the law on ministerial responsibility. The judicial investigation of the former heads of the service fighting financial crimes is not progressing because the economic prosecutors are waiting to receive the original list from the French authorities.

Meanwhile, the attempts of the Ministry of Finance to reach the bank accounts of Greeks in Swiss banks have gone nowhere. The delay in the signing of an agreement between Greece and Switzerland and the conditions described therein, which limit the ability of the Greek state to carry out inspections, are not very encouraging concerning the possibility for the treasury to receive money from the taxation of "black" money. Indicative of the speed of the process is the fact that the first agreements signed with Great Britain and Austria in October 2011 and the second ones signed in April 2012 will come into force in January 2013. They allow the residents of the two countries which have bank accounts in Switzerland to decide within five months what to do: to pay a tax to the Swiss authorities, which they will then transfer to the relevant country, to declare the money to the authorities of their countries, or to take the money and leave Switzerland. The Swiss authorities offer these conditions to any interested state.

It is believed that half of the money the Europeans send to "tax havens" is in Switzerland. It is assumed that the total amount is $ 1 trillion. According to some bank sources, the deposits of the Greek citizens amount to 2-5% of this amount or between 20 and 50 billion euro. Swiss authorities firmly refuse to remove the ban on the disclosure of details of account holders in local banks. They refer to the existing ban in Liechtenstein and say that they would participate in such a discussion only if the measure applies to all.
The big problem in the bilateral agreements for the submission of the data of account holders is the taxation of old accounts. It is based on a formula that is different for each country, depending on local law. Switzerland provides in the agreements for the inspection of accounts from their opening to date and for the calculation of the amounts. If the holder cannot prove that he declared the amounts to the tax authorities in his country, a tax rate will be imposed that will be determined by the two countries. Then, they will take the amount of the tax and will transfer it to the state of nationality of the holder and the money in the account will now be considered "white" rather than "black".

Tags: EconomyBanksSwitzerlandGreek account holdersLagarde List
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