The NRA never wanted to receive the data on accounts of Bulgarians in Switzerland for 200 million euros, which the former head of the agency Krasimir Stefanov claimed he had seen in Germany in 2010. A case begins with Switzerland, but it falls asleep. This is understood from the answer to questions under the APIA sent to the new management of the agency.
We are talking about information from the notorious “Swiss Disk” – stolen data on accounts of foreign citizens in Switzerland, purchased by the German government. In March 2010 Krasimir Stefanov was on a working visit to Düsseldorf, after which he told the media the following:
“As a matter of fact, what we saw at today’s meeting confirms the figure of over 200 million. euro deposits. A report will be given to Prime Minister Boyko Borisov, the parliament and the services.” Krasimir Stefanov in front of “24 hours“
However, nothing has followed from this. As early as 2014, a request under the APIA on the site Bivol revealed that the report on this visit to Germany did not exist or was well hidden.
However, the “Swiss Disc” reminds of itself in 2016, when Germany spontaneously sent to the NRA data on Swiss accounts of Bulgarians that were active in 2006 (737 entries) and 2008 (524 records). The information contained only the account number, balance and year of birth of their holder, without names, personal identification number or other individualizing information.
The NRA specifies that it does not know whether these accounts are from the “Swiss Disc”, but it is logical that they are from there because they come from the German authorities and are for a period before 2010.
Based on these data from Germany, the NRA has selected 57 accounts with large assets and has tried to obtain information about their owners from Switzerland. The holders of 10 accounts were established. The NRA tried to obtain detailed banking information about them, but hit a snag. The Swiss have requested evidence that these persons have not complied with the Bulgarian tax legislation or that there is a reasonable suspicion of such non-compliance. After a long administrative-judicial saga, there is ultimately a refusal to disclose bank secrecy. The file with Switzerland was closed in February this year.
However, the NRA has data obtained through the automatic exchange of financial accounts with the EU Member States and Switzerland, in which a large number of control proceedings has been launched – the revenue agency boasts, without specifying how many there are.
- From 04.03.2010 to 06.03.2010 the then Director of the NRA Krasimir Stefanov and NRA experts are on a working visit to Germany. The German revenue agency provides our delegation with a list of Bulgarians with bank accounts in Switzerland and Liechtenstein. Stefanov himself announced after the visit: “As a matter of fact, what we saw at today’s meeting confirms the figure of over 200 million. euro deposits. A report will be given to Prime Minister Boyko Borisov, the parliament and the services.”
Question: Does the NRA have this list and what actions have been taken to verify the information in it?
- Have motivated and individualized requests for information been sent by the NRA to the German government (the German revenue agency) about the accounts of Bulgarians in Switzerland and Liechtenstein, which the German government has already reported to the NRA in 2010?
- Have such motivated and individualized inquiries been sent by the NRA to the French government about Bulgarians with bank accounts abroad from the so-called “Lagarde List”?
- How many such inquiries are there under points 2 and 3 and on what dates were they sent?
- Have responses been received to the queries under points 2 and 3 and on what dates were they received?
In February 2010, information was disseminated in the international and Bulgarian media that the Federal Finance Ministry of Germany had purchased magnetic media with information about persons who own bank accounts in Swiss banks.
On the occasion of the information and the likelihood that citizens of the Republic of Bulgaria will be present among these persons, a working visit of NRA employees to the Ministry of Finance of Germany was held in early March 2010. The delegation, led by the Executive Director of the NRA, Krasimir Stefanov, met with representatives of the German Ministry of Finance, and a request was made on the Bulgarian side to provide data on Bulgarian citizens available on magnetic media.
German officials said during the meeting that joint teams of the prosecutor’s office and the tax authorities are conducting an investigation and that if data on Bulgarian citizens are found, they will be submitted to the National Revenue Agency. With the German side, the technical order and way in which the information is to be transmitted if and when it is found, have been specified. Regardless of Mr. Stefanov’s statement after the visit, no disk with data on bank accounts of Bulgarian persons in Swiss banks was provided by the German side during the meeting.
Bank account information of Bulgarian persons in one of the major Swiss banks was obtained from Germany in April 2016 as a spontaneous exchange of information under the Council Directive 2011/16/EU of 15 February 2011 on administrative cooperation in the field of taxation and repealing Directive 77/799/EEC. We cannot confirm whether the information received is an extract of the magnetic media purchased in 2010 by the German Federal Finance Ministry, as this circumstance has not been explicitly commented. It should be noted, however, that the data concern accounts that were active as of 2006 (737 entries) and 2008 (524 entries), much of which overlaps. The information obtained contains only data about the account holder’s customer number, the age of the account holder (not for all records), the country of residence of the account holder (Bulgaria), the total amount of assets invested in the bank. Unfortunately, no additional individualizing data of the persons (e.g. names, address, PIN, etc.) or transaction data are included. The German side expressly states that it has no data other than those specified in the spontaneous exchange of information. It should be noted that a significant part of the accounts have zero or minimum size of the specified assets.
Based on the information received, a selection of 57 customer numbers was made, which have significant assets in Switzerland. The aim is, as a first step, to examine the persons who represent the most significant tax interest. In this regard, in June 2016, a request regarding these 57 customer numbers was sent to the competent authorities of Switzerland requesting full identity data and banking information.
As a result of the active correspondence with the Swiss tax administration, the identity of 10 persons on the list has been established, for whom the relevant control actions for verification of information and study of the origin of funds have been assigned. It should be noted that the disclosure of banking information by Switzerland is a complex process that often involves formal notification to the taxpayer concerned and the possibility of administrative and judicial appeal against the decision to provide information.
In August 2018, the Swiss Tax Administration notified Bulgaria that it was suspending the examination of our inquiry until the Swiss Federal Court ruled on a similar case from another country concerning the disclosure of banking information for a large group of taxpayers. By letter dated March 2020, the Swiss side informed us of the court’s decision and requested additional information on the basis of which to assess whether our inquiry met the conditions of the decision. This additional information concerns, in particular, the submission of evidence that the persons concerned in our inquiry have not complied with the Bulgarian tax legislation or that there is a reasonable suspicion of such non-compliance. It is also pointed out that in view of the already launched automatic exchange of financial account information between Bulgaria and Switzerland, in the event of a possible response, all persons for whom information has already been provided will be excluded from the list.
In July 2020, the Bulgarian side sent a response with the requested additional information and justification for the validity of our initial inquiry. By letter of February 2021, the Swiss tax administration stated that, following a re-analysis, it was found that the facts set out in our case did not comply with the conditions laid down in the judgment of the Swiss Federal Court. In view of this, the Swiss authorities inform us that they are terminating the examination of the case, as the provision of information would be contrary to the court decision. In view of this decision of the Swiss side, no additional inquiry has been made for the other client numbers of account holders – Bulgarian persons due to its pointlessness.
Notwithstanding the refusal of the Swiss tax administration and the adverse outcome of this request, it should be borne in mind that Switzerland and the European Union have concluded an agreement on the automatic exchange of financial account information, according to which such information is exchanged for 2017 and subsequent years. Based on this information and other data obtained through the automatic exchange of financial accounts with EU Member States and third jurisdictions, the NRA has launched a large number of control proceedings.
On question No. 2 of the request: the NRA has not sent motivated and individualized requests for information to the German government (the German revenue agency) about the accounts of Bulgarians in Switzerland and Liechtenstein in connection with the said list. As stated in the answer to question No. 1, a group inquiry has been made to the competent authorities of Switzerland, as detailed information about the accounts of Bulgarian persons in Swiss banks can only be obtained from Switzerland. The German tax authorities explicitly state that they have no data other than those provided.
On question No. 3 of the request: the NRA has not sent motivated and individualized inquiries to the French government about Bulgarians with bank accounts abroad from the so-called “Lagarde List”, since the NRA has not been notified by the French side whether Bulgarian persons are on this list.
On question No. 4 of the request: The main inquiry in connection with the spontaneous exchange of information by the German tax administration is one and concerns 57 customer numbers that may belong to Bulgarian persons. The inquiry was sent in June 2016 to Switzerland.
Question 5 of the request: Active correspondence was held with the Swiss Tax Administration in the period 2016 – 2021, in which the Swiss side provided partial information, requested additional data in connection with the inquiry, provided information on the status of the inquiry, notified us of the stay of proceedings and the decision of the Swiss Federal Court. The final reply was received in February 2021. The answer to question No1 contains more information about the administrative cooperation between Bulgaria and Switzerland.
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