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AfricaMoney | August 23, 2017

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Swiss Leaks ripple effect: Mauritius ranks 94th in international fiscal evasion scam

Swiss Leaks ripple effect: Mauritius ranks 94th in international fiscal evasion scam

As the Swiss Leaks affair rages globally, Mauritius finds its own version of fiscal evasion raging internally with former Prime Minister Navin Ramgoolam recently arrested for involvement in cases of conspiracy and money laundering (Image: International Consortium of Investigative Journalists)

Mauritius finds itself at 94th place in the list of countries implicated in the Swiss Leaks affair, with data provided by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) revealing that the scam is based on almost 60,000 leaked files providing details of over 100,000 HSBC clients and their bank accounts.

The in-depth probe, led by investigative journalists basis documents provided by major French newspaper, Le Monde, revealed that 81 Mauritians possess bank accounts in Switzerland.

Among them, 19 people with a Mauritian passport or Mauritian nationality are implicated in this scandalous fiscal invasion affair. For the period spanning from 1980 till 2006, people connected to Mauritius have opened 71 customer accounts that were bound to 210 bank accounts. The largest sum managed for a person having a link to Mauritius borders Rs 800 million (USD 24.2 million).

It may be noted that the evidence brought forth by the reporters references bank data spanning from 2005 to 2007.

ICIJ enlisted more than 140 journalists from 45 countries, including reporters from Le Monde, the BBC, The Guardian, 60 Minutes, Süddeutsche Zeitung and more than 45 other media organisations.

The leaked files relate to account holdings of more than USD 100 billion and provide a rare glimpse inside the reclusive Swiss banking system, one that the public has never been privy to before.

According to the information provided by the panel of international investigative journalists, the HSBC Private Bank based in Switzerland allowed a large proportion of its clients to engage in fiscal evasion.

The latter comprise a group of more than 100,000 individuals, and have been linked to 203 countries, including Mauritius.

However, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists have issued the express disclaimer that they do not intend to suggest or imply that any persons, companies or other entities included in the Swiss Leaks interactive application have broken the law or otherwise acted improperly.

The Swiss Leaks report in no way affirms that the 81 clients linked to Mauritius have indeed been perpetrators of fiscal fraud. Moreover, those having a Mauritian passport are not necessarily Mauritians themselves.

Moreover, it has to be noted that it is not illegal to have a Swiss bank account. To establish guilt, customer records related to fiscal evasion and fraud will be handed over to the Mauritius Revenue Authority to carry out proper investigations and shed light on the affair.

The question of fiscal fraud would arise if one has hidden one’s money with the express objective of income tax avoidance. Ultimately, it is the authorities that will have to clarify the matter, as to whether or not the individuals linked to the Swiss Leaks affair have indeed broken the law by hiding away their money in this manner.

As the Swiss Leaks affair rages globally, Mauritius finds its own version of the international fiscal evasion affair raging internally. Former Prime Minister Navin Ramgoolam was recently arrested for involvement in cases of conspiracy and money laundering where millions in both Mauritian rupees and foreign currency denominations were found at his place. The source of the money has not been revealed yet and investigations are ongoing.

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