Switzerland may have turned a page on banking secrecy, but Portugal’s central bank most certainly hasn’t. A request by the country’s IGF tax authority to cross reference data in a bid to see who transferred billions of euros out of the country between 2011 and 2014 (and where to) has met with curt refusal from the institution led by the man lampooned in the past for being ‘Mr Magoo’.
According to Público, BdP has invoked “the duties of secrecy in not sharing individual data”.
Says the paper, it is thus “shielding itself behind the rules of discretion enshrined in orders of credit institution business”.
The information exchange sought by IGF would have helped clear up the controversy surrounding a purported €10 billion which flew out of the country to offshore tax havens at a time when any kind of extra tax income would have helped the country dearly.
Right now, says Público, Portugal’s AT tax department is not even sure that it was €10 billion (the number constantly bandied about in the press). It could have been slightly less (€7.1 billion), or it could have been considerably more (€16.9 billion).
This is why information sharing and cross referencing would be so handy.
But up till now, BdP is not prepared to help.
The bank has restricted itself to simply publishing ‘block amounts’ on its site, which, as Público explains, is “the same information accessible to any citizen” who logs on to BPStat, and looks under “transactions and positions for functional categories of portfolio or direct investment”.
“Nothing more has been sent to IGF” stresses the paper, adding fairly obviously that this is ‘not what the country’s general inspectorate of finance was hoping’.
What happens next is unclear.
Efforts to discover how all these billions left the country without being taxed saw Euro MPs of the PANA committee (set up in the wake of the Panama Papers leak) conduct a number of interviews last month – again making no obvious headway (click here).
The IGF has “recommended that the (AT) tax authority study legislative proposals to cooperate with BdP”, explains Público, though Carlos Costa has doggedly refused to answer any questions in this regard.
Indeed the paper stresses that he refused three times to answer its questions days before the PANA committee arrived in Lisbon to (attempt to) get to the bottom of the list of people and companies that managed to snaffle enormous quantities of money out of Portugal when the government of the era was (apparently) intent on making everyone pay into the public purse as much as possible.