Portugal’s unknown billions

in News · 02-03-2017 14:19:00 · 1 Comments
Portugal’s unknown billions

Two former finance ministers are in line to face a parliamentary grilling after it emerged that billions of euros were transferred to offshore havens under their watch without being analysed by the tax office.

Vítor Gaspar, who will be remembered as the first finance minister to enforce austerity measures under the previous coalition Government, could be called to explain how ten billion euros were channelled from Portugal’s wealthy to havens such as Panama without the knowledge of the treasury.
But it his successor Maria Luís Albuquerque - in charge of the country’s finances from 2013 to 2015 - who is being targeted by the leftist alliance Government to explain whether she withheld information from opposition MPs with regards to the undisclosed cash.
According to information obtained from a Communist MP and published on Thursday by newspaper Diário de Notícias, there are apparent indications that Maria Luís Albuquerque could have had knowledge of additional funds being channelled to Central America and the Caribbean, without disclosing this to the opposition.
The former State Secretary Paulo Núncio, who served under Albuquerque, while not quite falling on his sword, assumed full political responsibility for the lack of control over these funds.
In justifying his option to keep mum on the matter, Núncio told MPs this week that he believed the publication of these transfers to tax havens “could give some advantage to offenders and impair the battle against fraud and tax evasion.”
He added that “the publication of this information as a whole could lead to incorrect interpretations.”
Another big question is whether the transfer of these billions of euros has had an effect on the country’s depleted coffers and indirectly burdened the taxpayer with the ability of the wealthy to potentially have dodged billions of euros in unpaid taxes.
“I’m not in a position to state whether there is a penny of tax missing,” current State Secretary Fernando Rocha Andrade was quoted by Lusa News Agency as telling the parliamentary committee this week.
He explained that “the matter is more complex than has been reported” because the period during which there would be a liability for tax has not yet passed.

Earlier, Rocha Andrade had said that what went wrong in the handling of the transfers could have been in the tax office’s failure to transmit the files containing the information provided by banks to its central computer
Figures released a few months ago by the Finance Ministry had indicated that Panama had taken receipt of some €1.3 billion in transfers from Portugal over the period between 2010 and 2014 with around 1,800 transfers taking place.
But figures out this week for the period 2011 to 2014 have revealed more than three billion euros was transferred to Panama in 2014 alone.
According to Lusa News Agency, interconnected with the Panama Papers detailing the activities of companies set up by the law firm Mossack Fonseca but broader in scope, the Finance Ministry detailed how some €10.2 billion was transferred out of Portugal to tax havens worldwide over this same period of time.
Panama constantly remains in the top 5 on the list of preferred destinations for this capital flight and in 2010 ranked second with 351 individual transfers for a total of €531 million.
That year saw the Dutch Antilles lead the way as haven of choice with €770 million heading there with Luxembourg in third on €505 million followed by Hong Kong and the United Arab Emirates on €386 million and €201 million respectively.
In the following year, Panama ranked third with Portuguese money totalling €547 million heading to the Central American country before slipping back to fourth in 2012 and 2013 with transfers of €98 million and €105 million whilst its attractiveness as a destination slipped still further in 2014 when the country came in fifth with 158 transfers for only €19 million.
In 2014, Hong Kong topped the list for Portuguese financial transfers, raking in almost €163 million, followed by the Cayman Islands, the United Arab Emirates and Trinidad and Tobago that accounted for €51 million, €35 million and just under €25 million of transfers respectively.
The amounts being squirreled away in such domains have also varied over the course of time with 2010 and 2011 representing the peak years with over €3 billion and €4 billion, before soaring to almost nine billion euros in 2014.
Last year, Gabriel Zucman, a professor of the University of California at Berkeley, claimed that his research had found that 37.1 percent of Portugal’s riches were tied up abroad, making it the European country with the highest ratio of cash held by institutions outside of its borders.
Greece comes a distant second, with a ratio of 25.8 percent of its Gross Domestic Product stashed in offshores, followed by Ireland with 19.5 percent, France (18.1 percent), the United Kingdom (17.1 percent) and Germany on 15.5 percent.
Despite Portugal topping the Zucman black-list, tax authorities here have spent the past few years upping the ante in retrieving unpaid taxes.
Since 2014, more than 83,000 homes have been attached by the taxman, while figures out for 2015 also revealed that the taxman set a new record in coercive collections. While the target set out at the beginning of 2015 had been 1.1 billion euros, tax collectors improved on this by almost 20 percent, raking in 1.3 billion euros during the course of that year, for an average of 3.5 million euros a day.
However, it remains unclear how many of Portugal’s super-rich were on the receiving end of the taxman’s efforts to replenish the state’s dwindling coffers.



by Anthony from Other on 03-03-2017 07:16:00
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