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Prime Minister George Papandreou believes many of the billions that have been withheld from the Greek taxman are lying in Switzerland. This, however, is largely the fault of Athens, according to Swiss-Greek economist Spyridon Arvanitis.
Ultimately, the only people who know how much untaxed Greek money is in Switzerland are the banks. “I’ve heard every amount possible – even up to the sum of the Greek debt,” Arvanitis, from the Swiss Economic Institute (KOF) at the Federal Institute of Technology Zurich (ETHZ), told swissinfo.ch. “There are rich Greeks, but talk of €200 billion (SFr230 billion) is getting carried away.”
At any rate, Greek Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos has told his Swiss counterpart Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf that Greece now wants to act and agree a withholding tax with Switzerland, similar to the one currently being negotiated with Germany and Britain.
Arvanitis believes an exchange of information wouldn’t cause problems for Switzerland “as long as it’s not a fishing expedition but a concrete list of ten, 15 names of people suspected of keeping untaxed money here”.
Fishing involves investigators trawling through masses of data in the hope of netting someone who might be committing a crime. He says Switzerland shouldn’t offer any more than it has already done to other European countries. “That would be enough to establish a bit of order. Concrete cases of tax fraud or evasion could also be submitted. And in cases where a firm suspicion exists, it’s already possible to make a request for legal assistance,” he said.