A Portuguese tax inspector has been busily wiping her social media profiles clean as the nation’s press delights in reporting that she has been found to be one of the “611 Portuguese” discovered to have hidden money in HSBC Switzerland.
For now, the IGF tax department is refusing to comment on the implications of the story – saying the matter is “personal” to service chief Filomena Martinho Bacelar.
But, while TVI – the broadcaster that broke the news – stops short of saying that Bacelar has committed a crime, it confirms that the so-called Swiss Leaks scandal has been found “various times” to involve “money laundering and tax evasion”.
Increasing concerns in the case is the involvement of a Portuguese lawyer – Ana Bruno – in one of the offshore companies associated with Bacelar.
Ana Bruno’s name, writes Observador website, has been linked to the multi-tentacled “Monte Branco” network of tax evasion and corruption – described as Portugal’s “largest money-laundering ring of all time”.
As the details of Bacelar’s personal fortune go viral, tax department workers have announced there is a VIP ‘protected’ taxpayers list which immediately alerts the government to any outside snooping.
Thus the climate of suspicion that corruption exists at almost every high-level in Portugal is at fever pitch – ironically at a time when the nation’s prime minister has been in the spotlight for his own tax payment indiscretions.
For now, Bacelar is the first Portuguese citizen identified in the investigation into Portugal’s 611.
As Observador reveals, only 421 of the 611 are registered for tax purposes on national territory.
The website gives details of Bacelar’s past. “Before joining the IGF, Filomena Bacelar exercised functions on the Porto Metro, at Águas de Portugal, ANA (Portugal’s airports authority), on the Transtejo (Lisbon ferry service), at Parque Expo ‘98, Docapesca and at Santarém district hospital”.
The investigation into her personal fortune in HSBC is understood to have shown two accounts – jointly held with her husband and “another family member”.
Both relatives are reported to be involved in a building firm and a real estate business.
The joint accounts are said to be “associated with two offshore societies based in the British Virgin islands in the Caribbean”.
One of those accounts is in the name of Bordel Investment Holdings Ltd – holding company for Searchouse Imobiliária, Unipessoal, based in Lisbon which, claims Observador, is run by Ana Bruno “the lawyer involved in the Monte Branco investigation”.
Carrying an exclusive on the story, Correio da Manhã writes that although the IGF ‘official line’ is that this is a “personal matter” for their service chief, “an external auditor has been called in to investigate whether Filomena Bacelar used her job or any IGF installations to move funds to Swiss accounts”.
Meantime, secretary of state for fiscal affairs Paulo Núncio has his hands full cross-checking data for all the “611” flagged as having accounts hidden away from national scrutiny.
According to other media sources, one of the largest accounts involves over 144 million euros and “is associated to a national bank”, while one of the smallest “is linked to a former government minister and current MP”.
The Swiss leaks scandal was broken last moth by a joint investigation of journalists from the UK’s Guardian newspaper, the French daily Le Monde, the BBC’s Panorama and the USA’s International Consortium of Investigative Journalists.
The investigation revealed how HSBC Switzerland “aggressively marketed schemes” to help wealthy clients avoid paying taxes in any number of countries.
Portugal was quoted as the 45th country with the largest quantity of dollars in these hidden accounts – a total of 969 million dollars (856 million euros). (See: https://www.portugalresident.com/over-600-rich-portuguese-hid-money-in-hsbc-switzerland).
Switzerland used to be a country where banks did not reveal the account details of their clients. It was a decision made in the 1930s to protect Jewish people fleeing the Nazis. But now the authorities have agreed to open up to the EU and USA – and automatic exchange of Swiss banking information is due to become a reality by 2018.