By Lefteris Yallouros – Athens
Greek Finance minister Yannis Stournaras failed Tuesday in an attempt to persuade Swiss counterpart Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf to tax money Greeks have deposited in Swiss banks without declaring it in Greece.
More than two years after talks on the issue between the two governments began, Stournaras and Widmer-Schlumpf met in Athens to discuss the matter further and try and reach agreement.
Greece pressed for a one-off levy on secret account holders to settle their tax liabilities.
“Models we had earlier considered and discussed to prevent untaxed money in Swiss banks are partly outdated,” Widmer-Schlumpf said after the meeting with Stournaras, effectively putting an end to Greek hopes.
“We continue talks, we insist on our view, we want the British model to apply to us,” Stournaras insisted while Widmer-Schlumpf replied the Swiss side had proposed a roadmap to continue talks, for the taxation of deposits in future.
Reports in the Greek press suggest money Greeks keep in Swiss banks approaches a staggering 60 billion euros.
The “road map” the Swiss minister referred also has to do with money the Greek state could prove is a product of illegal activity (such as kickbacks) and money laundering. Switzerland doesn’t rule out cooperating with Greece in future over the disclosure of information concerning bank accounts held by Greek citizens there to avoid taxes.
It is estimated Greek banks lost about a third of their deposits (nearly 90 billion euros) after the debt crisis exploded in late 2009 and money is only slowly returning to the country as the political situation has stabilized after elections in 2012 and the “Grexit” scenario faded away.
Bank deposits had declined for five straight months up to October last year. Businesses and household deposits stood at 163.25 billion euros last December.
The government hoped to receive a much-needed boost for the economy by striking a deal with Switzerland as well as a political victory over those who maintain the country’s tax system is pushing Greeks towards evasion and that the government has done nothing to track down tax cheats included in the so-called Lagarde list of 2,062 Greeks with deposits in Geneva.
Greeks owe 63 billion euros in unpaid taxes, fines and loans, November figures show, up from 56 billion euros at the start of 2013, according to Finance Ministry data.