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Hidden profits?


Minister’s offshore business to be re-investigated


The offshore tax affairs of a company previously headed by the economics minister are to be re-examined by the finance department of canton Bern. The move comes after Swiss Public Television, SRF, published a memo written by the Federal Tax Authorities (FTA) which raised questions about the previous investigation.

The Bern authorities said on Thursday they wanted to clarify “open questions” and fully evaluate the tax record of the Ammann Group, a construction machinery firm, headed by Johann Schneider-Amman from 1989 to 2010.

The cantonal finance department has asked the FTA for support in the process.

On Wednesday, SRF made public the FTA document that, it claims, shows the Amman Group kept corporate assets in offshore locations to avoid paying taxes in Switzerland.

The allegations first appeared in previous SRF report in January 2014. In February canton Bern tax authorities concluded there was no indication of wrongdoing by the Ammann Group, which denied accusations that offshore company offshoots were no more than just ‘letterboxes’.

The tax authorities investigated claims that at the end of 2008, the company held CHF264 million ($281.9 million) in Jersey and that the funds were transferred to Switzerland in 2009, one year before Schneider-Ammann was elected to the cabinet.

The group also held funds in Luxembourg which were later moved over to Switzerland.

The newly published document, dated February 2014, states that a federal tax inspector concluded the group’s money was not earned in Jersey or Luxembourg, but in fact in Switzerland and should therefore have been taxable.

Legal

Schneider-Ammann has defended the company's tax policies. He told the Blick newspaper that such practices were made transparent at the time and had the approval of the authorities.

He said companies had to look for advantageous tax regimes to remain competitive.

"We have to create financial reserves. Because there is international competition. We want all people to have jobs, " he is quoted in Blick's Friday edition.  

Schneider-Ammann added he expected the authorities would investigate and punish the use of confidential documents.

swissinfo.ch and agencies



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