UK tax evasion global hunt nets over 100 individuals

Last Updated: Friday, May 10, 2013 - 22:25

London: Britain Friday said it has caught over 100 people who allegedly stashed wealth in offshore tax havens following a joint investigation with the US and Australia.

Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC) said it has obtained 400 gigabytes of data which reveal those, along with professional advisers, who may be involved.

Some of the over 100 caught during the operation were already under investigation for tax evasion, it said.

So far HMRC has pinpointed more than 100 people from the information, whom it says benefited from using offshore havens such as Singapore, the British Virgin Islands, the Cayman Islands, and the Cook Islands to hide their assets.

More than 200 UK accountants, lawyers and other professional advisers will also be scrutinised, the BBC reported.

HMRC is working on the material with the tax authorities in the United States and Australia.

HMRC refused to disclose where the documents came from, but an official suggested they constituted the largest haul of offshore tax evasion data obtained so far.

Tax evaders risk being charged fines equivalent to 200 percent of the amount of tax they should have paid.

The Chancellor of Exchequer, George Osborne, said: "The message is simple: if you evade tax, we're coming after you.

"This data is another weapon in HMRC's arsenal."

The hunt was sparked by a joint investigation by the BBC's Panorama programme, the Guardian newspaper and the Washington-based International Consortium of Investigative Journalists.

Chas Roy-Chowdhury, head of taxation at the ACCA accountancy body, said that it was still a small number of people who were evading tax in these markets.

"The majority of accountants, lawyers and other professional advisers, as well as their clients, are not breaking any laws in these locations. There is a large gulf between what amounts to tax avoidance, which is within the law, and tax evasion, which is illegal," he said.

Last week, Bermuda and other British overseas territories with financial centres signed agreements on sharing tax information.

The move follows similar recent deals with Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man.

An international drive against tax evasion and the use of tax havens has been picking up steam.


First Published: Friday, May 10, 2013 - 22:25

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