Secret Swiss accounts bring 540 million into Belgian treasury

There’s been a preliminary investigation into the amount of money that secret bank accounts Belgians have in Switzerland can yield for the Belgian treasury. It turns out the answer is 540 million euros. Finance Minister Johan Van Overtveldt (Flemish Nationalists) revealed the figures to financial newspaper De Tijd. “However, the question is how long it will take to actually get our hands on that money”, reacts Fiscal Law Professor Michel Maus.

In 2010, the Belgian tax man gained access to leaked files revealing the secret bank accounts of hundreds of Belgians with the Swiss bank HSBC. Swiss banking secrecy policy enabled these Belgians to hide their assets for the tax man for years.

But now, the preliminary research is finished, and the 1,000 files that were investigated by the Tax Inspectorate show that no less than 540 million euros can be salvaged, tax raises included. A majority of the taxable account holders have already struck a deal with the tax man. They are mostly diamantaires, nobility, lawyers, CEOs, and athletes.

De Tijd reports that a second pile of French files will be investigated by the Tax Inspectorate soon. This second round of research will probably bring in another considerable sum of money for the Belgian treasury.

However, Free University of Brussels  Fiscal Law Professor Michel Maus explains why he thinks it won’t be easy for the Inspectorate to get their hands on that money. “These files were acquired through the SwissLeaks affair. Whether this acquisition was legal is still to be decided upon. It’ll be interesting to see if the account holders will unite against the tax man in court, or if they’ll all strike a deal with him, with their personal fortune in mind.”

Jasper Jacobs

SwissLeaks

Past February, 140 journalists from 45 countries revealed that HSBC was helping rich clients from all over the world hide part of their wealth from tax collectors. Thousands of secret banking documents were leaked and sometimes also sold to the German secret service. How legal all of this was is still up for debate in court. Some countries argue in favour of the tax man, however others, like France, do not.