Bold Busuttil warns MPs he will sack tax dodgers

Following news that Michael Falzon had resigned his position on the PN’s executive committee, Busuttil said that anyone who held undeclared monies in private Swiss bank accounts should come clean and carry responsibility.

Opposition leader Simon Busuttil yesterday came out in full force to declare he would suspend any PN officials who held undeclared cash in a Swiss bank account.

Following news that Michael Falzon had resigned his position on the PN’s executive committee, Busuttil said that anyone who held undeclared monies in private Swiss bank accounts should come clean and carry responsibility.

“As I have stated a number of times over the past days, I do not consider it acceptable for people in public office or in political positions to be among those involved in this scandal,” Busuttil said, referring to the ‘Swissleaks’ revelations that made the news this past week. 

It is unclear whether Michael Falzon’s name appears on a list of HSBC Banque Privée Suisse clients handed to the French police in 2006 by whistleblower Hervé Falciani.

A selective list of people were published by several European newspapers seeking answers over unpaid tax on undeclared monies held in the Swiss HSBC accounts.

“People in public office or in political positions caught up in this scandal – whoever they may be – must come clean and carry their responsibility at law,” Busuttil said. “Furthermore, if any person on these lists has any official connection with the Nationalist Party he or she should consider himself or herself suspended immediately from the Party.”

Falzon said he repatriated his money before 2008, under one of several ‘amnesties’ for the repatriation of overseas monies under Nationalist administrations.

Busuttil said that if anyone breached any tax laws, they should come clean and carry responsibility for their behaviour, and that if any funds in Swiss banks are due in any way to an abuse of any official position they should pay for their betrayal of public trust “to the fullest extent possible”.

Busuttil has told MaltaToday he is not privy to any information of any PN officials or former ministers with monies in Swiss bank accounts. “It is incumbent on anyone who might have such accounts to come clean and make their position clear. What I have done over the past weeks is explain my position on those that might have such accounts.”

Referring to former Nationalist Minister Michael Falzon Dr Busuttil said: “I note that Mr Falzon has stated that there is no connection with his past political activities. I note also that he has suspended himself for the time being from political activities within the PN and from his position on the Oil Procurement Committee. Nevertheless, his suspension from the party itself must be considered as having immediate effect. His position on the oil public procurement committee – as the appointee of Prime Minister Joseph Muscat – has also become untenable.”

 

Government reaction

The government said it had asked any media house with details on possible Maltese tax dodgers who banked with the HSBC Swiss private bank to pass on the names, with full protection for their sources, so that the police can investigate. 

“We have already made a request to the competent authorities to pass on this information to our tax authorities,” the government added in its statement.

Tax amnesties and repatriation

Malta’s most recent ‘amnesty’ for undeclared cash in overseas accounts was Labour’s investment registration scheme.

The Investment Registration Scheme attracted a total of 1,469 valid registrations covering a total of €455.8 million worth of eligible assets. Of the total amount registered, €69.8 million or 15% of the total was repatriated following registration. After netting out the commission payable to registration agents, the government received €32 million in registration fees. 

A tax amnesty for defaulters launched in September 2009 had only netted €2.57 million in payments in three months, a far cry from expectations that the amnesty would go some way into cutting €600 million in tax arrears.

The scheme offers a 90% reduction on the fines and accrued interest on tax owed to the Inland Revenue Department. Defaulters had to pay the reduced amount in full and give up any objections or claims against the department.

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