By Steven Scheer
JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Israel’s tax authority, looking to crack down on unreported capital, said on Monday it has received a list from French authorities of more than 8,000 Israeli customers that held bank accounts at the Swiss arm of HSBC.
HSBC early last year acknowledged “past compliance and control failures” that may have allowed some customers to evade taxes.
Since February 2015, Israel’s tax authority had been working to obtain the list of Israelis with accounts at HSBC Switzerland.
Having a Swiss bank account is not illegal in Israel as long as it is reported to authorities and taxes are paid. The tax authority said that it will spend the next few months examining the list of Swiss HSBC accounts and compare it with the authority’s records.
The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), which had coordinated the release of leaked data from HSBC in Switzerland, initially reported that Israel ranked sixth among 203 countries whose citizens were customers, with 6,554 Israelis holding accounts worth $10 billion.
“Getting the list is one of the most significant outcomes of the fight against undeclared capital and it joins the legislative moves and other measures to obtain information on bank accounts and assets held by Israelis abroad,” said Moshe Asher, head of the Israel Tax Authority.
The authority has offered immunity from criminal prosecution by anyone who comes forward to report an account abroad. It has so far received 5,360 requests worth 18.6 billion shekels ($5 billion).
Asher called on those Israelis who have not yet reported capital to do so now. Those applying for amnesty are still liable for back taxes and penalties.
Israeli newspapers had reported that among the Israelis on the list were bank owners and directors, diamond and real estate moguls, retired military officers, public and private company heads, well-known lawyers, a “popular” TV presenter, artists, soccer players, sports agents, a retired judge and a former prosecutor.
The tax authority previously arrested 32 people over secret accounts worth tens of millions of dollars held at UBS in Switzerland.
(Reporting by Steven Scheer; Editing by Ari Rabinovitch)