Although Prime Minister Antonis Samaras’ government has yet to check a list of 2,059 Greeks with $1.95 billion in the Geneva, Switzerland branch of HSBC for possible tax evasion, Finance Minister Yiannis Stournaras said Greece is still hoping to reach agreement to tax Greeks who put money in Swiss banks.
Stournaras said, however, that there are difficulties to be surmounted. Greece has been trying to reach a deal with Swiss authorities and banks there so that Greeks with deposits there can be taxed, but Swiss banks have refused to provide any information, adhering to their infamous secrecy.
The United Kingdom and Germany have struck deals with Swiss authorities but he said they had weak points and acknowledged that talks are going slow. In response to a question from New Democracy Member of Parliament Lefteris Avgenakis, Stournaras said the Finance Ministry is in negotiations with Swiss officials.
Chief among the problems is that the names of depositors will not be revealed and it would be up to Swiss officials, not those in Greece, to decide the penalty that each account should pay, providing further secrecy for possible tax evaders who already have largely escaped sacrifice during Greece’s economic crisis, leaving workers, pensioners and the poor to pay the price.
Stournaras also said that some legal entities, such as trusts, will be excluded from the deal, providing another loophole and incentive for punishment-proof evasion. He also said Swiss officials are not fully cooperating.