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The Swiss Abyss | Hit or Remiss?


Also by ICIJ: «New Leak Reveals Luxembourg Tax Deals for Disney, Koch Brothers Empire»

Source: GGN (Brazil)

The list of names of more than 100,000 account holders of the HSBC branch in Geneva, which constructed a veritable industry of money-laundering through the use of offshore intermediaries in order to avoid taxation in the countries of origin of clients, is big news all over the world.

Little by little each of the persons and entities involved are being revealed. France, Spain, Belgium, Chile, Switzerland, Denmark, India, Angola, Argentina and other countries are publishing detailed reporting on a daily basis, with fresh information.

All except Brazil.

The first news organization to become aware of the scheme was Le Monde, which counted on the secret data of an investigation initiated in 2008 by the French government, based on information leaked by an ex-employee, the French-Italian IT expert Hervé Falciani.

Noting that the scheme involved more than 200 countries,  Le Monde decided to share the material with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), a network of 185 journalists from 65 countries that performs in-depth reporting. Brazil has contributed five members to the group: Angelina Nunes (O Globo/Abraji); Amaury Ribeiro Jr.  (TV Record); Fernando Rodrigues (UOL); Marcelo Soares (Folha Digital); and Claudio Tognolli (Abraji/Yahoo!)

The ICIJ is a project of the Center for Public Integrity, an organization bankrolled by an A-list of philanthropic foundations and NGOs — see below.

These five professionals will have access to what is considered the largest database of fiscal investigations in the world, starting with the information in the hands of Le Monde. These files contain the names, professions and assets of all the clients of HSBC in Switzerland.

One weakness of the evidence, however,  is defining what constitutes indications of engagement in illegal conduct, since it is not illegal to open a bank account in Switzerland. The names revealed include royalty, public figures, politicians, celebrities, and businessmen.

The ICIJ formed a smaller group of journalists to investigate the documents in a project known as Swiss Leaks. All members of the Consortium are represented on the team. In Brazil, Fernando Rodrigues of UOL is the only journalist who has in his hands evidence in the investigation of Brazilian clients.

To date, the information published by the ex-Folha reporter consists of data indicating 5,549 secret accounts held by Brazilian clients, including both natural and legal persons, totalling US$ 7 billion. No names have been published.

Fernando Rodrigues explains that he contacted Brazilian authorities to find out whether there were any illegalities discovered in the management of these accounts, or whether the sums had been reported to the tax authority. He said he has been waiting for an answer since November of last year.

See below.

This sort of apology is atypical of the journalist and his body of work. Revealing the existence of the list and then holding back the names opens the door to any number of interpretations.

In the meantime, Argentine investigative journalist Daniel Santoro, also a member of the ICIJ, is publishing names and surnames: businessmen Juan Carlos Relats, Raúl Moneta, and persons close to the government, such as the Werthein group. In Chile, journalists Francisca Skoknic and Juan Andrés Guzmán, have published the names of Chilean high net worth individuals: Andrónico Luksic, José Yuraszeck, Ricardo Abumohor, Óscar Lería, Álvaro Saieh, José Miguel Gálmez and the Kreutzberger clan, represented by the children and relatives of the TV host of a show called “Don Francisco”.

Fernando Rodrigues: The Missing Swiss Abyss

Source: UOL, 12/02/2015

UOL has obtained access to the largest leak of Swiss bank accounts in history. Known as SwissLeaks, it has been under investigation by this blogger since late 2014, in partnership with the ICIJ, a nonprofit headquartered in Washington, D.C.

The information reflects bank accounts at HSBC in Switzerland. The bank manage(s)d more than US$ 100 billion of 106,000 from 203 nations. The data leaked refers to 2006 and/or 2007.

In the case of Brazil, there are 6,606 accounts (serving 8,667 clients) and banking activity — transfers and deposits — of Missnearly US$ 7 billion, or about $R 20 billion, about the same amount the Rousseff government needs to save in 2015 to carry out its fiscal adjustment.

The vast majority of names on the HSBC’s Brazilian list are unknown to the public, though a small minority are recognizable figures from the worlds of business, banking, arts and culture, sports, and intellectuals.

Which names and accounts will be made public? In the first place, those which are of public interest, and therefore journalistic importance. Secondly, all of those who are proven to have committed an infraction in relation to the money deposited with HSBC.

This Blog has been working to dig up this data since the end of last year. It has run up against the ill will of Brazilian authorities, who have the means to rapidly identify a potential irregularity.

Interesting note: Le Monde has been attacked for alleged wrongdoing by its  own newsroom, leading to a harsh confrontation with the ownership of the paper.

It is not hard to imagine Globo management responding in a similar fashion to an ongoing probe of its tax status, dating back to financing the exclusive broadcast rights for the 2002 World Cup.

A minute fraction of the names of suspects were shown to the government in a confidential setting. The inquiry has consumed more than three months and remains incomplete. That is to say, the Dilma administration is not interested in learning the truth of what occurred.

This Blog and UOL understand that the government cannot reveal the names of those who commit tax-related crimes. What they can say, and what society has a right to know, is how many Brazilians illegally maintained balances with the HSBC in Switzerland.

With the lack of interest and political will on the part of the government, the Blog has been working for some time now on a detailed analysis of the entire 8,000 lines of information on Brazilian account holders in Switzerland.

When a name is identified with events or activities that may be of public interest, the account holder will be contacted and asked to explain the sum deposited with HSBC. A news article will be published about the case.

Will the entire list ever be published? No, because this would be an unjustified invasion of privacy in the case of persons who opened their Swiss accounts in good faith, respecting the law and paying their taxes.

Will the ICIJ publish all the information someday? No.


The ICIJ is a project of the Center for Public Integrity. Major donors as of 2013