|Italy’s Supreme Court Authorizes Police to Investigate HSBC Suisse Clients|
Italy's police and tax authorities have obtained clearance to use the account data illicitly removed from HSBC in Geneva against 7,000 Italian owners of undeclared HSBC Swiss bank accounts.
Hervé Falciani, a consultant with the bank, stole a disk containing the data while he was working for HSBC in 2008. He later took it to France, where police acting on a Swiss extradition warrant confiscated it. They subsequently passed it to the French Minister of Finance, Christine Lagarde, whose tax officials used it to investigate French clients of HSBC Suisse. Lagarde also passed a list of relevant clients to the tax authorities of many other countries, including Italy. It is thus known variously as the 'Lagarde list' and the 'Falciani list'.
The list reached Italy's Guardia di Finanza and Italian Revenue Agency in May 2010. Investigations and criminal trials followed, but the taxpayers concerned have challenged the legality of using evidence that is generally agreed to have been illegally acquired (at least by Falciani, if not necessarily in the later disclosures between official agencies). Similar challenges were also brought in the French courts by French taxpayers.
The case has been appealed all the way to Italy's Supreme Court, which has now declared in favour of the authorities. It has issued two judgments, 8605 and 8606, asserting that the police can use any evidence other than that prohibited by statute, or acquired in breach of the taxpayer's constitutional rights. The latter prohibition, it said, does not apply, because the Italian authorities received the Lagarde list via a request made in accordance with official tax information exchange agreements.
Italian residents who held undeclared HSBC Suisse accounts and have not yet been investigated can still take advantage of Italy's voluntary disclosure programme, which remains open until 30 September.
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Published on our website on May.12, 2015