German state hands Greece information on suspected tax evaders

German state hands Greece information on suspected tax evaders

A German regional state has given Greek authorities information on suspected tax dodgers to help Athens fulfil its promise to international creditors to crack down on tax evasion, the state's finance ministry said on Wednesday.

The western state of North Rhine-Westphalia has handed more than 10,000 data sets on accounts of Greeks in Switzerland to the finance ministry in Athens in a move that could help its struggling economy by boosting tax revenue.

The promise by Greece to clamp down on tax evasion was one of the reform demands set by the international lenders who gave Athens an 86 billion euro ($91 billion) bailout deal in late August.

"This is an important step for the Greek government to create more honesty regarding tax in the country," said state Finance Minister Norbert Walter-Borjans in a statement.

The information concerns Swiss bank accounts held by private individuals and companies from Greece with assets estimated to be worth up to a total of four billion Swiss Francs ($3.92 billion).

Greece aims to evaluate the data, deputy Finance Minister Trifon Alexiadis said in the statement, adding it would ask Switzerland for additional information if needed. "This is a great chance for our community," he said.

The state of North Rhine Westphalia has bought data on tax evaders from Swiss authorities since 2010. Sources close to the state prosecutor in Cologne say about 30 legal investigations into international banks and their branches are under way. [Reuters]

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