UPDATE 1-Over 2,000 Italians probed in new tax crackdown

Fri Feb 26, 2010 6:23am EST

* Over 2 bln euros transferred abroad between 2007-2008

* More than 2,000 Italians caught up in probe

(Adds details)

ROME, Feb 26 (Reuters) - Italy is investigating more than 2,000 citizens who stashed money abroad to evade taxes in the country's latest bid to recoup billions of euros hidden in offshore havens, the tax agency said on Friday.

Italy, whose economy shrank nearly 5 percent last year, is one of several European countries under pressure to raise tax revenue and support their economies hit hard by the global financial crisis.

The Italians being probed transferred more than 2 billion euros ($2.7 billion) abroad to tax havens between 2007 and 2008, the agency said, adding most were from northern or central Italy.

The offensive follows a successful Italian tax amnesty that prompted Italians to declare 95 billion euros illegally held overseas, almost all of it repatriated to Italy. [ID:nLDE5BS0NJ]

Italy is expected to reap a further 30 billion euros after extending the amnesty to April.

The move comes as European governments step up the fight against tax dodgers. Germany for instance has said it would pay 2.5 million euros for stolen bank data with information on tax evaders. [ID:nLDE61505O]

Italy's offensive against tax havens has led to tensions with neighbouring Switzerland, which was placed on a blacklist of countries not cooperating with the amnesty. [ID:nL4193376]

Switzerland summoned the Italian ambassador in October to demand an explanation of raids by police and tax inspectors on dozens of Swiss banks in Italy. (Reporting by Deepa Babington; Editing by David Holmes) ($1=.7421 Euro)