Wednesday, 30 January 2013

French Budget Minister under investigation for tax evasion thru offshore bank acounts

Bob Goulder at Tax Analysts reports that "French Budget Minister, Jerome Cahuzac, was placed under investigation for allegedly using a secret offshore bank account to evade taxes." We don't have to reach too far to guess where that hidden bank account was:
The bank account in question was with the UBS branch in Geneva, Switzerland. It had been in place since the 1990s, at which time Cahuzac was a practicing plastic surgeon who specialized in hair transplants.
I don't know how they found that account, but it's closed now:
Cahuzac allegedly closed the account in 2010, fearing detection by authorities, and transferred the funds to a separate offshore account in Singapore.
Query whether France's tax authorities can get any information out of Singapore to confirm the existence of a hidden account there.  Since this story apparently involves some kind of whistleblower with concrete information as to which confirmation could be obtained, there is a small chance of cooperation because France and Singapore have a tax treaty with the following exchange of info agreement:

1. The competent authorities of the Contracting States shall exchange such information as is foreseeably relevant for carrying out the provisions of this Convention or to the
administration or enforcement of the domestic laws ....
3. In no case shall the provisions of paragraphs 1 and 2 be construed so as to impose on a
Contracting State the obligation:
a) to carry out administrative measures at variance with the laws and administrative practice of that or of the other Contracting State;
b) to supply information which is not obtainable under the laws or in the normal course of the administration of that or of the other Contracting State...
4. If information is requested by a Contracting State in accordance with this Article, the other Contracting State shall use its information gathering measures to obtain the requested
information, even though that other State may not need such information for its own tax
purposes. The obligation contained in the preceding sentence is subject to the limitations of
paragraph 3 but in no case shall such limitations be construed to permit a Contacting State
to decline to supply information solely because it has no domestic interest in such
5. In no case shall the provisions of paragraph 3 be construed to permit a Contracting State
to decline to supply information solely because the information is held by a bank, other
financial institution, nominee or person acting in an agency or a fiduciary capacity or
because it relates to ownership interests in a person.”  
This suffers from the usual limitations on request-activated (as opposed to automatic) info exchange: the first gov has to know what it doesn't know in order to get confirmation from the other gov.  In other words, no fishing expeditions, and certainly nothing like what a FATCA would theoretically produce.  But it does seem to preclude Singapore invoking bank secrecy protection.  Will be interesting to see if this goes further.

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