Tax officials probe large bank loans to beat evasion

Major bank loans for property purchases have become a new target in the fight against tax evasion, as authorities are petitioning banks to supply data on loans that have been issued to individuals or corporations whose financial capacity may not justify the size of the loan.

The aim of tax authorities is to identify cases where loans for the acquisition of a professional property or a home have been effectively used for the legitimization of illegal funds or for laundering money from tax evasion.

Tax inspections have already revealed hundreds of cases where loans have been used as a medium through which money acquired through illegal activities has been legitimized, which is why authorities are turning their attention to this category of credit transaction. Emphasis will initially be placed on loans of over 500,000 euros.

According to sources, banks are processing 10 times more demands a day than they were three years ago, taking on the role of tax inspectors. They also say that banks receive dozens of requests every day to open up account data that may date as far as 10 years back. Such demands come not only from the Financial Crimes Squad (SDOE) but also from the Bank of Greece, anti-money-laundering authorities, financial prosecutors and a variety of agencies that have joined the fight against tax evasion.

At the same time banks are also receiving requests from taxpayers who want certificates and documents identifying their revenues from interest on deposits from previous years, profits from stock transactions, bond revenues and the verification of banking transactions to justify the course of their money from as early as 2000.

As far as capital flight is concerned, SDOE has undertaken the task of tracing some 22 billion euros that was transfered abroad between 2009 and 2012 by 54,000 account holders.

SDOE’s efforts have so far uncovered some 24,000 cases of money being forwarded abroad that merit further inspection, with the account holders being summoned to explain why their stated incomes do not justify the size of their deposits. Finance Ministry sources admit, however, that tracking down the illegal money that left the country in 2009-2012 is no mean task, as depositors often offer vague explanations for their wealth, for instance that they had received very generous wedding gifts.

Meanwhile, authorities are also focusing on an institutional framework activated by the Bank of Greece that allows them to monitor the activity of bank accounts held by individuals categorized as being high or medium risk.

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