Greece seeks names of HSBC account holders in Jersey

ATHENS Thu Nov 15, 2012 10:12am EST

ATHENS Nov 15 (Reuters) - Greece's government has asked Britain for information on Greeks holding HSBC bank accounts on the island of Jersey, as part of the near-bankrupt country's push to crack down on tax evasion.

The move comes after Britain's Daily Telegraph newspaper reported it had been handed leaked data that identified over 8,000 people with HSBC accounts in Jersey, including celebrities and bankers.

British tax authorities and Jersey's financial watchdog are both conducting probes related to the report.

In a statement, Greece's finance ministry said Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras had formally asked his British counterpart for information on Greek citizens or Greek-based individuals with HSBC accounts in Jersey.

Greece's financial prosecutors want to investigate whether 97 Greek citizens - estimated to hold deposits worth 22.3 million euros - included in that list are tax evaders, court officials have said.

Tax authorities globally are stepping up efforts to uncover people hiding wealth in offshore accounts. Rampant tax evasion is a particularly sore subject in Greece, where anger at a wealthy elite is rising among austerity-hit Greeks reeling from waves of spending cuts imposed by EU and IMF lenders.

Last month a Greek magazine published the names of more than 2,000 Greeks with HSBC accounts in Switzerland, drawing great attention in Greece and prompting authorities to put the magazine's editor on trial for violating privacy law. He was acquitted.