Authorities in Greece have found a missing data CD containing the names of Greek clients with Swiss bank accounts, paving the way for Athens to prosecute tax evaders.
The head of the Greek financial police, Stelios Stasinopoulos, reportedly handed the data over to the country’s chief prosecutor on Tuesday. It took the Greek government almost a week to locate the CD, with the support of intelligence agencies and two former finance ministers.
The CD, which the Greek government acquired in 2010 via then-French finance minister Christine Lagarde, was originally obtained by a worker at the Geneva branch of the bank HSBC along with other data pertaining to Greek clients. It contains the names of roughly 2,000 Greeks with money in Swiss banks.
Greek authorities long believed that they would no longer be able to use the data on the CD, even if it were to be found. Just two weeks ago, acting finance minister Giorgos Mavraganis told Greek parliament that using the data would amount to “industrial espionage”.
However, on Monday, Greek finance minister Yannis Stournaras told the Financial Times newspaper that his government would make catching tax evaders a top priority, with the help of the CD obtained in 2010. He then said that if the CD could not be found, the Greek government would ask its “European partners” for help in finding another copy.
Stournas also said that more than 30 Greek politicians and department heads were under investigation for tax fraud and corruption. Those names were recently made public in the press, and the president of Greek parliament, Evangelos Meimarakis, stepped down temporarily as a result.
Greece and Switzerland are currently working on a tax accord that resembles agreements the Swiss have already struck with Germany, Austria and Great Britain. The accords, known as Rubik agreements, generally place a flat tax on foreign money in Swiss bank accounts, making it possible for Switzerland to maintain its banking secrecy while the foreign government in question can collect taxes due to it.
The tax deals with Austria and Great Britain have been ratified by all parties involved, but the agreement between Switzerland and Germany must yet be ratified by Berlin. A Greek-Swiss tax agreement is still in the negotiating phase.
swissinfo.ch and agencies