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Lagarde list in the hands of the state

08/09/2015 11:08
The notorious Lagarde list which contains dozens of names of natural and legal persons who have deposits in a Swiss bank, is being examined by the Commissioner of Taxation for the past few days.

Finance Minister Haris Georgiades speaking this morning on national radio and confirming relevant reports by Politis newspaper, stressed that the list which was secured from the French authorities, is a database.

"The French taxation authorities", he said, "gave the data under the European directives on administrative cooperation in the field of taxation, with complete confidentiality regarding Cypriot depositors or depositors with a Cypriot address."

He said that he sent a letter to the president of the parliament Yiannakis Omirou through whom he informs the legislative authority on receipt of the Lagarde list by the tax authorities of the Republic of Cyprus, as the issue concerned the house.

In his letter, the Minister of Finance notes that due to the nature of these data, the transmission or disclosure runs counter to the obligation of official secrecy with which the Commissioner of Taxation is bound by the tax laws while ensuring confidentiality is deemed critical also in relation to maintaining the validity and credibility of Cyprus as a financial and business center.

As Mr. Georgiades said, in the context of the legislation the tax department will examine how many names on the list are presented as Cypriot or using a Cypriot address or have or have had in the past justified amounts which now appear in the form of deposits in this Swiss bank.

It is a list of depositors in one of the many Swiss banks, as he said.

Asked if he had seen the list, the finance minister replied negatively.

He stated that maintaining deposits, either in Switzerland or anywhere else in Europe or the world, is not illegal.

He suggested that "it is allowed and it cannot be automatically concluded that whoever has deposits abroad, including the specific Swiss bank, is guilty of tax evasion."

He pointed out that the list is a source of information, which will be processed in order to confirm and verify that the amounts that are allegedly deposited in the Swiss bank are justified in terms of taxation.

The finance minister noted that this is raw data and that the list will be treated strictly according to the legislation which requires confidentiality.

"The tax department gets those who have possibly evaded taxes on a daily basis, whether named or anonymous," the finance minister said.

The use of the list and its treatment, said Mr. Georgiades, will not be different because it is a list of depositors of a Swiss bank, or another bank in London or Nicosia.

He explained that fines and cases that are brought to court for tax purposes are not advertised, signaling that the names of those listed in the Lagarde list will not leak.

He reiterated that the tax department will implement the legislation in all cases, as it does now.

He stressed that, the example of Greece, where there are claims that names have been removed from the Lagarde list will be avoided "our handling was and still is very careful, the list did not and will not come even close to the hands of politicians, in order to enable the tax department to examine everyone".

"If there is a need for the list to be published, if it is the will of the people, the parliament will have to change the law," he said.

In this case, he said, it is not only a national law but also a European directive. The French authorities delivered the list on the condition of confidentiality, he concluded.

The Lagarde list, which took its name from the former French finance minister Christine Lagarde, was acquired by the French secret service in 2009 and includes thousands of people from different countries who maintained deposits at HSBC bank in Switzerland.