Swiss judicial authorities are visiting Greece to take testimony in cases involving alleged money laundering in banks in Switzerland where banking and government officials have so far refused to lift the veil of secrecy over accounts there, said to be holding as much as $1.8 trillion in deposits by foreigners seeking to avoid paying taxes.
The Athens News Agency said the Swiss investigators will be talking to Nikos Zigras, who was convicted in October, 2013 in a scheme concocted by his cousin, former defense minister Akis Tsochatzopoulos, to demand bribes for contracts, and who is now serving a 20-year sentence for corruption.
Zigras, who admitted his involvement, has turned the tables on the Swiss, accusing its banks and government of implicit cooperation in being a haven for deposits of tax evaders, major white-collar criminals and the corrupt. He accused Switzerland of “building its economy by safeguarding the biggest scammers in the banking world” and that they willingly accept dirty money.
The Swiss prosecutors reportedly quizzed Zigras about an account belonging to his wife that appears to have been used to transfer hundreds of thousands of euros. Based on descriptions, Zigras claimed that the woman in question is probably Vicky Stamati, the jailed wife of Tsochatzopoulos, who is also due to be questioned by the Swiss.
He will be questioned in the context of an ongoing investigation into a money laundering case involving a Swiss bank employee, it was announced.
ANA said that the Swiss investigation focuses on the involvement in the case of a Greek Morgan Stanley employee in Switzerland and the transfer of roughly 30 million Swiss Francs ($33.18 million) through two bank accounts that belonged to Zigras. The likelihood that payments made via Swiss banks were associated with money laundering is also being examined.
After Zigras’ questioning, the head of the Swiss team told reporters that the federal prosecutor’s office launched an investigation after 2012, when Greek authorities requested access to bank accounts and information relating to these.
It hasn’t been granted, frustrating Greek authorities who also have in their hands a list of 2,062 Greeks with $1.95 billion in accounts in the Geneva branch of HSBC still being slowly checked for tax cheats.
Zigras said that the Swiss authorities want to clarify whether charges should be filed against individuals or companies living or based in Switzerland. The prosecutor’s office wants to make sure that the seriousness and reputation of Switzerland as a country of bank deposits is not being jeopardized, the Swiss official said.
Zigras’ attorneys have filed a petition with Swiss justice requesting the return of 2.2 million euros ($2.97 million) to the Greek state deposited in a Swiss bank accounts by him but was reportedly told that has to done by the Greek Justice Minister to his Swiss counterpart but it hasn’t been.
In a written statement made public by his attorneys, Zigras noted, among others, that Switzerland “should return the stolen money immediately to the Greek people and stop the hypocritical prosecutions and questioning that are used as an excuse to withhold the money that was stolen from the Greek people.” He didn’t mention he was one of those who stole it.