Former Greek PM’s mum sues for ‘Swiss account’

The mother of former Greek prime minister George Papandreou has sued financial investigators and three newspapers over claims she held a $550-million Swiss bank account, a judicial source said on Wednesday.

Former Greek PM's mum sues for 'Swiss account'
Photo: Dimboukas

Margaret Chadd, 90, accuses the weekly edition of To Vima and scandal-prone Proto Thema and Dimokratia of falsely claiming she held the  account, linking her to the so-called Lagarde list scandal.
In their report, the newspapers quoted three officials from Greece's financial crimes unit as saying they understood her name was included in the controversial list of more than 2,000 Greek holders of Swiss bank accounts, currently under investigation for tax evasion.
The list is named after former French finance minister Christine Lagarde, current head of the International Monetary Fund, who first gave the data to Greek authorities in 2010 from Geneva bank information leaked to the French government.
The three newspapers published the American-born Chadd's alleged inclusion on the list late last year and the news was largely picked up by international media.
According to the same judicial source, Chadd accuses the publishers and officials of not denying her involvement, despite having apparently said elsewhere there is no evidence against her.
The accused officials include head Stelios Stassinopoulos, who is close to conservative Prime Minister Antonis Samaras.
Chadd, the former wife of Andreas Papandreou — first leader of Greece's socialist party Pasok — is seeking 200,000 euros ($264.323) in damages from each of the accused as well as six months of imprisonment for each of the three publishers.

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Switzerland’s banks remain among the world’s most secretive

Despite the progress made over the years, the Swiss financial sector continues to be one of the least transparent in the world. But there is good news too.

Switzerland’s banks remain among the world’s most secretive
Switzerland remains one of the world's least transparent nations. Photo AFP

Switzerland is in the third place in the 2020 Financial Secrecy Index released by the non-governmental organisation (NGO) Tax Justice Network (TJN), which rates 133 nations based on their financial transparency.

Two other European countries, Luxembourg and the Netherlands, are also ranked among the top 10 least transparent nations on the TJN’s list.

Despite being in the third place, Switzerland ranks better this year than it did in the previous edition of the Index, which is released every two years — it slipped from the first to third place. The Cayman Islands and the United States took the first and second spots, respectively.

Switzerland reduced its risk of being an offshore haven for tax cheats by 12 percent, “finally improving enough to move off the top of the index”, TJN said. 

READ MORE: Switzerland's strangest taxes – and what happens if you don't pay them

This improvement is mainly due to Switzerland extending its international network for the automatic exchange of customer information to more than 100 countries. 

Also, in a referendum held last year, Swiss voters accepted the Federal Act on Tax Reform and AVS Financing (TRAF). This legislation introduced major changes in the Swiss tax system by ending some preferential tax schemes and replacing them with new regulations which are in line with international standards.

This tax reform prompted the European Union to change Switzerland's status from ‘tax haven' to one which is EU-compliant, removing strict controls on transactions within the EU. 

So why, despite all the reforms, does Switzerland still rank among the world’s least transparent nations?

According to a Swiss NGO Alliance Sud, wealthy people from poor countries can still hide their money here from the tax authorities of their home nations.

Alliance Sud noted that despite the progress made in the past years by Swiss financial institutions, “the fight against tax evasion remains insufficient”.

Switzerland is the world’s biggest centre for managing offshore wealth, with a quarter of global assets invested here.

For years, it has been placed on various lists of tax havens where wealthy foreigners could park their money. Faced with widespread criticism for this practice, Switzerland passed an anti-money laundering law in 1997 and introduced strict regulations against tax evasion.