PM Tsipras: The Greek government will use the bank data provided by Germany to tackle tax evasion

The Greek government will use the bank data provided by Germany to tackle tax evasion, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said after a meeting with the Finance Minister of the State of North Rhine-Westphalia Norbert Walter-Borjans on Saturday.

Greece received recently a list of Greek depositors with large accounts in UBS from the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia, known as the “Borjans list”, after its finance minister who delivered it.

Welcoming Walter-Borjans at Maximos Mansion, Tsipras thanked him for his help in the fight against tax evasion and described as “important” the information received. “It’s not the first time that Greece has received information and lists, but it is the first time that Greece has information on tax evasion and is utilizing it,” the prime minister said. “After the ‘Lagarde list’ we have the ‘Borjans list’. You’re famous in Greece,” he added.

On his side, Walter-Borjans discussed the experience accumulated by North Rhine-Westphalia during the 2008-2009 crisis and how such lists were utilized to increase revenues.

“It would be advisable to utilize such lists and not just to cut expenses,” the German official said when he heard Tsipras say that the Greek government is discussing with the institutions about the revenues which could derive from tackling tax evasion.

“Many people have lost their sleep because of the government’s efforts to fight tax evasion,” Tsipras commented.

On Saturday, Greece signed an agreement with North Rhine-Westphalia to cooperate on fighting corruption and tax evasion, as part of the exchange of information between the two sides on issues of taxation.

The joint declaration of intent extends over the whole range of tax expertise and provides for the training of fifty Greek tax officials – including financial prosecutors – on relevant issues, while experts will visit Greece when required.

“It is far more than just an administrative agreement. It is a message from the Greek government to Greek citizens and tax payers that it is serious about ensuring tax justice; of everybody having to pay their fair share towards public finances,” Walter-Borjans said during a joint press conference with Greek officials.

On Greece’s side, the agreement was signed by Alternate Finance Minister Tryfon Alexiadis and Alternate Minister for Corruption Issues Dimitris Papangelopoulos.

Cooperation between the tax authorities of the two countries began as part of the international exchange of information on tax evasion issues which has already yielded results in many countries, imposing stricter regulations on the operation of banks and giving incentives to tax evaders to submit correct declarations.

Walter-Borjans said that combatting tax evasion is a worthwhile effort because “it confirms to honest taxpayers that they are not the dumb ones when paying their due.”

On his side, Alexiadis said the government understands that to tackle tax evasion, corruption and fraud, any possible assistance is welcomed. “It is very important to prove to the peoples of Europe that we make every possible effort so that criminals will not remain untouched, at the same time that the tax conscious citizen, the honest businessman pay disproportionate and unfair taxes,” he said at the press conference.

Papangelopoulos noted that the government is “at war with corruption, interweaving interests, tax evasion and all those pathologies that nourished the old political order”.

He went on to explain that the turning over of the “Walter-Borjans list” of possible Greek tax evaders to the Greek finance ministry was only a first step in a long cooperation in which Greece has invested. “The agreement signed today … is proof in fact of European solidarity,” he noted and continued: “Authorities will thereby convince skeptical Greeks and non-Greeks that an end is coming to tax evasion and the flow of ‘black money’ into Greece.”