More than 3 1/2 years after first receiving it, Greece is speeding the pace of looking into a list of 2,062 citizens with $1.95 billion in secret Swiss bank accounts and after only 72 inspections has found the depositors owe between 5,000 to 5 million euros each in unpaid taxes.
That was discovered by the Financial Crimes Squad (SDOE) which has only had 172 cases assigned so far, little more than eight percent of the total, showing the potential for massive tax fraud. No one on the list has been prosecuted.
The probe began last year but was overwhelming, authorities said, but added they’ve finally made some progress after increasing the number of staff on the case from four to 16. The agency previously said it didn’t have investigators skilled at checking bank records.
The list was given in 2010 to then finance minister George Papaconstantinou by his French colleague Christine Lagarde, now Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund, one of Greece’s international lenders. It came from a CD stolen from the Geneva branch of HSBC.
Papaconstantinou said it vanished but after a copy was turned over by his successor, now Socialist chief Evangelos Venizelos, an investigation began and Papaconstantinou was charged after it was found the names of three of his relatives had been erased. He denied any wrongdoing.
Venizelos was not charged although he said he couldn’t check the list for possible tax evaders because it was stolen material, although Lagarde said other countries had used names from their citizens as evidence.
An unnamed SDOE official told the newspaper Kathimerini said that notices have already been sent to the individuals probed by their tax authorities. He also said that he expects the probe into the remaining 107 files to be completed within the next 10 days.
The official added that he is optimistic after an initial team of four inspectors was augmented by an additional 12 with more expertise in data processing and in analyzing banking transactions.
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