December 23, 2015 / 5:05 PM / 2 years ago

Greek government hands data on suspected tax cheats to prosecutor

ATHENS, Dec 23 (Reuters) - Greece’s Prime Alexis Tsipras said on Wednesday his leftist-led coalition government had handed a USB stick with data on thousands of suspect banking transactions to a prosecutor, and said tax evaders would have one last chance to own up.

At the last cabinet meeting of 2015, Tsipras said the government’s secretary general met last week with Herve Falciani, a former HSBC employee who leaked information on clients and their tax situation.

Falciani was sentenced to five years in prison for espionage by a Paris court in November.

A court official said the secretary obtained from Falciani new data which may help an investigation into a list of more than 2,000 names of potential tax evaders, known in Greece as ‘the Lagarde list’.

“These initiatives will continue and there will be a barrage of developments because this is a government that has the political will,” Tsipras told ministers.

Widespread tax evasion was largely blamed for Greece’s financial woes and its debt crisis. The government has promised to crack down on tax dodgers and also wants to use the proceeds to help ease the plight of the poor.

But after five years of austerity, Greeks are angry with politicians over their failure to stop the tax cheats and corruption. The investigation of the Lagarde-list has not produced significant results.

To convince Greeks that their sacrifices are paying off, the government will support judicial authorities “ethically, politically and materially”, a spokeswoman for the government said separately.

Last week, Greek financial prosecutors raided a UBS office in Athens, seizing records as part of an investigation into possible tax evasion by holders of large bank deposits abroad.

Tsipras also told Wednesday’s cabinet meeting that Athens would table a bill in January giving tax evaders a last chance to voluntarily disclose money they transferred abroad that has not been taxed.

“We will give them a last chance to present the money and pay their share to the Greek state, without facing the consequences which sooner or later they would face, if they don’t do so,” Tsipras said.

Reporting by Renee Maltezou and Constantinos Georgizas; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky

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