Greek authorities have raided the home of a former local boss of UBS investment bank as part of an extensive investigation into suspected tax evasion.
Hellenic Police raided the home of Christos Sclavounis in Athens and took away computers, documents and disks, according to The Financial Times.
Sclavounis was UBS head of investment banking in Greece until he was appointed chair of the Hellenic Financial Stability Fund in May 2013. In March 2015, he resigned from his post.
The investigation on Sclavounis is part of a wider effort the Greek government has undertaken in order to tackle tax evasion and generate revenue. It is based on account information from UBS Geneva branch contained on a CD that Germany bought in 2012 and shared with EU partner Greece, says the Financial Times report.
Using the information, Greek authorities have compiled a list of about 1,000 individuals who are suspected of tax evasion. Investigators are also probing the role of UBS and its bankers.
“We have not been contacted by Greek authorities concerning an alleged investigation of UBS,” was the official UBS statement, without any further comment.
Under new rules, Swiss banks are obliged to share account information for cases where tax evasion is suspected.
Bradley Birkenfeld, a UBS banker until 2005, gave the U.S. information on techniques the investment bank was using in order to help Americans avoid taxes. U.S. authorities filed charges against UBS. In 2009, UBS made a settlement with U.S. authorities by paying a 780-million-dollar fine.
Birkenfeld told The Financial Times that he had described in his statement how UBS bankers persuaded clients in countries such as Greece to use the bank’s financial secrecy services, involving setting up front companies, numbered accounts and trusts.
Birkenfeld said characteristically: “Greece is an economic shambles. Why? Because all of their money’s in Geneva and Zurich.”
Greek investigators suspect UBS continued to target Greeks until capital controls were imposed in June 2015 amid fears that the country was about to crash out of the euro, according to the report.
Greece’s left wing government is stepping up efforts to catch alleged tax evaders in order to add money to its suffering coffers and at the same time boost its leftist image at a time when harsh pension cuts and tax hikes deplete household incomes.
The finance ministry is drafting a bill on voluntary income disclosure that would allow Greeks with bank accounts abroad to declare untaxed money and pay a fine to avoid prosecution on criminal charges of tax evasion and money laundering. The bill is expected to be approved by parliament next month.