Paris hands list of offshore bank accounts to Canada

1st October 2010, Comments 0 comments

Canada will "aggressively" pursue tax evaders, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Thursday after France provided his government a list of hundreds of secret offshore accounts held by Canadians.

"This government will continue to go aggressively after tax evaders," Harper told the House of Commons.

"If Canadians are using Swiss bank accounts to avoid paying taxes in Canada, these citizens will face the full force of the law."

The Canada Revenue Agency said it had received information from the French government on more than 1,000 Canadians with accounts in Geneva, Switzerland.

"The largest accounts are now being audited, and others will follow," said the government agency. "All accounts that are linked to Canadian taxpayers will be reviewed."

The Canadians are among 79,000 customers identified by French authorities from data stolen from a Swiss unit of HSBC bank three years ago by an IT worker at HSBC.

The major security breach has helped fuel pressure on Switzerland over tax evasions.

In January 2009, French authorities acted on a Swiss warrant and seized HSBC customer data from former computer specialist Herve Falciani's home in France.

They then said they intended to investigate suspected evasion by French taxpayers with secret Swiss accounts.

Speaking to Canada's public broadcaster Radio-Canada, French prosecutor Eric de Montgolfier said France had uncovered 1,785 Swiss bank accounts belonging to Canadians, each with a minimum 500,000-dollar deposit, according to Falciani's data.

"Tax cheating is a crime. We will use any necessary measures to ensure this law is abided by," said Canadian Revenue Minister Keith Ashfield.

© 2010 AFP

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