Apprehension in the Offshore Banks
The lists of tax evaders end up in the hands of the Revenue.
By Giovanni Caporaso
Fifteen thousand account holders, including many Europeans, of a Swiss bank are under the scrutiny of the Tax Authorities. These names – which, after passing them through a sieve, the same authorities estimate as being about a thousand – have been added to the so-called “UBS List” (this list also started in Switzerland), to the 576 on the “Pessina List” (found in Chiasso in the car of the lawyer Fabrizio Pessina) and to the approximately 700 names of physical persons and companies headquartered at the Consulate of the Republic of San Marino in Rimini that are on the list of evaders examined by several european Revenue Office.
The last names come from the Geneva branch of the HSBC Bank and were made available to the French Magistrates by an ex-employee of the institute, Herve Falciani. However, the list goes back three years.
The District Attorney of Nice, Eric de Montgolfier, said that he received the request, per rogatory, from his Italian colleagues, and it seems that there will be no problems in carrying it out; immediately after the Tax Authorities will begin the verifications. However, the Swiss authorities have already announced that they will NOT furnish information on the basis of stolen data. Obviously, the news has filled the front page of almost all the European newspapers has created preoccupation – and not just a little – in all those who operate offshore.
But, is there really a reason to worry? As Galileo Galilei said, “The perturbation of fools is infinite.” And what would you call a lawyer that retains a list with almost six hundred names of clients and their relative accounts? Certainly, the situation is very different for those who entrust themselves to banks that offer security and anonymity, and are then basely sold by corrupt officials. Unfortunately, the war is open and we have seen that even governments no longer have compunctions against corrupting and paying handsomely for information that will be able to undermine the credibility of Switzerland’s and Luxembourg’s financial system. And, with this campaign, they expect to intimidate those who have invested or protected their capital abroad. Just because a million people believe in something idiotic, this doesn’t mean that the thing has ceased to be idiotic.
Unfortunately, the lists exist and many will fall into the Tax Authorities grasp. Many others think a hundred times before opening an offshore account, especially because no one can assure them that, after Switzerland and Liechtenstein, banks from other countries won’t fall, too. However, no one has said that those who appear on the lists are only personal accounts, those in the name of European citizens who naively opened the account and registered it in their own name. Personal accounts, which we have always advised our clients against, not only are identifiable from the lists, but also by every transaction that has been carried out into and from the account. The situation is much different for business accounts where only the name of the company exists in both the lists and the transactions, and therefore only with great difficulty can it be traced back to the beneficiary. For this reason you should never, ever open up a personal offshore account. As Cicero said, “Anyone can err; but no one except a fool will persevere in the error.”
Therefore, you should never be intimidated by the ongoing campaign, or rather, quoting Umberto Eco – you should never let yourself be blackmailed by the stupidity of others –
Certainly, since the government has already declared war on offshore operations, we need to take due security precautions.
Five basic suggestions:
1. Open only company bank accounts, with anonymous companies in countries that guarantee anonymity.
2. Never send transfers from an offshore account to your personal account or to a person that can be related to you.
3. Never receive transfers from an offshore account to your personal account or to a person that can be related to you.
4. Use security programs in such a way that no sensitive data or traces of offshore banking website surfing remain on your computer (see the options on www.opmsecurity.com).
5. In conclusion, if you have capital to protect, take up a second citizenship and use a legal second passport to open a foreign bank account (obviously with a company account, as usual).
Following this basic advice and considering well in which bank to open your account, you shouldn’t have any problems.
Many look for a nearby bank because of its convenience, but if it’s convenient for you, it’s convenient for the authorities, too. Many choose the big banks because they think that their money will be safer, but you need to remember that the banks that have suffered the most during economic crises are the big ones. Besides, the big banks need a lot of personnel and it’s more difficult for them to select or control their employees than it is for a “small” bank.
Continuing with the quotes, I’d like to close with a phrase from Albert Einstein: “Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity, but regarding the universe, I’m still not sure.”