Geopolitics

Why Is France Avoiding Tax Evasion Fight With Switzerland?

Unlike Germany, which is in a major row with Switzerland over Germans stashing away money in Swiss bank accounts, France has kept quiet on the issue. A French investigative journalist suspects France's current presidential election campaign may o

French-Swiss border (mpd)
French-Swiss border (mpd)
Bernhard Fischer

ZURICHA high profile scandal involving German tax evaders and Swiss banks has produced its fair share of media headlines in both countries. But looking westward, the same controversy has failed to gain momentum in France, even though research conducted by Geneva-based brokerage Helvea shows that in 2010 there was more than $98 billion in undeclared French funds in Swiss accounts.

The reason for France's reticence? Some of the money contributed to political parties stems from these undeclared funds in Swiss banks.

Of course that's not the official line. "The French don't want to discuss this because it goes against the principles of the Republic," said a spokesperson from the Swiss Secretariat for International Financial Matters (SIF). Informed observers attribute France's shying away from the tax issues to the ongoing electoral campaigns in France, with the first round of presidential elections later this month, and the final runoff in early May.

French author and investigative journalist Antoine Peillon's accusations run across the political spectrum: "Almost all the party elites are involved in hidden party financing."

In 2007, L'Oréal billionnaire Liliane Bettencourt allegedly financed Nicolas Sarkozy's campaign – in cash – with undeclared money from a Swiss account, says Peillon. "This doesn't just concern Bettencourt, but a lot of other party sponsors as well," he adds. And Sarkozy isn't the only one alleged to have financed his campaign with murky funds: there source of the money streaming into other campaigns – that of Socialist François Hollande, Communist Jean-Luc Mélenchon and liberal candidate François Bayrou –also remains murky.

Peillon is critical of the fact that many large corporate donors are involved in partially illegal funding of the parties. "Many businesses still refuse to openly divulge details about their payments, and that includes payments with money parked in Switzerland," he said.

Peillon believes that as long as the present power balances prevail, politicians will do very little to make information about funding public. "Especially not if they actually depend, politically and financially, on the people giving them the money," he said. "It could take years to achieve clarity on this. In France, the mills of justice grind slowly."

Shifting capital

Political scientist Guillaume Allègre of Paris-based university Sciences Po told Tages Anzeiger that the whole discussion regarding tax evasion in France "is still in its infancy." He added that right now a debate about a withholding tax would be perceived by the candidates as "harassing."

But Peillon believes the French public might see things differently: "Many people pay their taxes willingly, sometimes even a tad over-correctly, whereas the super rich and big business just keep moving their capital around from one place to another," he said.

The French government often negotiates tax deals that are favorable to big business just to keep them in the country. That means significant differences in tax rates as compared to other European countries.

"Resistance to this is rising; fiscal dumping in the European Union is starting to be broadly discussed," Peillon said. "Harmonizing taxes would mean that tax competition among countries would cease, and with it the competition for big money which is widely perceived as unfair." The investigative journalist believes that tax evasion, to Switzerland for example, would then become just one topic to be dealt with under among a slew of related tax issues including tax avoidance and tax fraud.

Read the original story in German

Photo - mpd

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Queen Elizabeth II with UK PM Boris Johnson at a reception at Windsor Castle yesterday

Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

👋 Hej!*

Welcome to Wednesday, where chaos hits Syria, Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro is accused of crimes against humanity and a social media giant plans to rebrand itself. For Spanish daily La Razon, reporter Paco Rodríguez takes us to the devastated town of Belchite, where visitors are reporting paranormal phenomenons.

[*Danish]

🌎  7 THINGS TO KNOW RIGHT NOW

• Syrian violence erupts: Army shelling on residential areas of the rebel-held region of northwestern Syria killed 13 people, with school children among the victims. The attack occurred shortly after a bombing killed at least 14 military personnel in Damascus. In central Syria, a blast inside an ammunition depot kills five soldiers.

• Renewed Ethiopia air raids on capital of embattled Tigray region: Ethiopian federal government forces have launched its second air strike this week on the capital of the northern Tigray. The air raids mark a sharp escalation in the near-year-old conflict between the government forces and the Tigrayan People's Liberation Front (TPLF) that killed thousands and displaced over 2 million people.

• Bolsonaro accused of crimes against humanity: A leaked draft government report concludes that Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro should be charged with crimes against humanity, forging documents and incitement to crime, following his handling of the country's COVID-19 pandemic. The report blames Bolsonaro's administration for more than half of Brazil's 600,000 coronavirus deaths.

• Kidnappers in Haiti demand $17 million to free a missionary group: A Haitian gang that kidnapped 17 members of a Christian aid group, including five children, demanded $1million ransom per person. Most of those being held are Americans; one is Canadian.

• Putin bows out of COP26 in Glasgow: Russian President Vladimir Putin will not fly to Glasgow to attend the COP26 climate summit. A setback for host Britain's hopes of getting support from major powers for a more radical plan to tackle climate change.

• Queen Elizabeth II cancels trip over health concerns: The 95-year-old British monarch has cancelled a visit to Northern Ireland after she was advised by her doctors to rest for the next few days. Buckingham Palace assured the queen, who attended public events yesterday, was "in good spirits."

• A new name for Facebook? According to a report by The Verge website, Mark Zuckerberg's social media giant is planning on changing the company's name next week, to reflect its focus on building the "metaverse," a virtual reality version of the internet.

🗞️  FRONT PAGE

"Oil price rise causes earthquake," titles Portuguese daily Jornal I as surging demand coupled with supply shortage have driven oil prices to seven-year highs at more than $80 per barrel.

#️⃣  BY THE NUMBERS

98

For the first time women judges have been appointed to Egypt's State Council, one of the country's main judicial bodies. The council's chief judge, Mohammed Hossam el-Din, welcomed the 98 new judges in a celebratory event in Cairo. Since its inception in 1946, the State Council has been exclusively male and until now actively rejected female applicants.

📰  STORY OF THE DAY

Spanish civil war town now a paranormal attraction

Ghosts from Spain's murderous 1930s civil war are said to roam the ruins of Belchite outside Zaragoza. Tourists are intrigued and can book a special visit to the town, reports Paco Rodríguez in Madrid-based daily La Razon.

🏚️ Between August 24 and September 6, 1937, during the Spanish Civil War, more than 5,000 people died in 14 days of intense fighting in Belchite in north-eastern Spain, and the town was flattened. The fighting began on the outskirts and ended in house-to-house fighting. Almost half the town's 3,100 residents died in the struggle. The war annihilated centuries of village history. The town was never rebuilt, though a Pueblo Nuevo (or new town) was built by the old one.

😱 Belchite became an open-air museum of the horror of the civil war of 1936-39, which left 300,000 dead and wounds that have yet to heal or, for some today, mustn't. For many locals, the battle of Belchite has yet to end, judging by reports of paranormal incidents. Some insist they have heard the screams of falling soldiers, while others say the Count of Belchite wanders the streets, unable to find a resting place after his corpse was exhumed.

🎟️ Ordinary visitors have encountered unusual situations. Currently, you can only visit Belchite at set times every day, with prior booking. More daring visitors can also visit at 10 p.m. on weekends. Your ticket does not include a guaranteed paranormal experience, but many visitors insist strange things have happened to them. These include sudden changes of temperature or the strange feeling of being observed from a street corner or a window. Furthermore, such phenomena increase as evening falls, as if night brought the devastated town to life.

➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com

📣 VERBATIM

We still cling to the past because back then we had security, which is the main thing that's missing in Libya today.

— Fethi al-Ahmar, an engineer living in the Libyan desert town Bani Walid, told AFP, as the country today marks the 10-year anniversary of the death of dictator Muammar Gaddafi. The leader who had reigned for 42 years over Libya was toppled in a revolt inspired by the Arab Spring uprisings and later killed by rebels. Some hope the presidential elections set in December can help the country turn the page on a decade of chaos and instability.

🇮🇷🎓  IN OTHER NEWS

Iran to offer Master's and PhD in morality enforcement

Iran will create new "master's and doctorate" programs to train state morality agents checking on people's public conduct and attire, according to several Persian-language news sources.

Mehran Samadi, a senior official of the Headquarters to Enjoin Virtues and Proscribe Vices (Amr-e be ma'ruf va nahy az monkar) said "anyone who wants to enjoin virtues must have the knowledge," the London-based broadcaster Iran International reported, citing reports from Iran.

The morality patrols, in force since the 1979 revolution, tend to focus mostly on young people and women, particularly the public appearance for the latter. Loose headscarves will send women straight to a police station, often in humiliating conditions. Five years ago, the regime announced a new force of some 7,000 additional agents checking on women's hijabs and other standards of dress and behavior.

Last week, for example, Tehran police revealed that they had "disciplined" agents who had been filmed forcefully shoving a girl into a van. Such incidents may increase under the new, conservative president, Ibrahim Raisi.

Speaking about the new academic discipline, Samadi said morals go "much further than headscarves and modesty," and those earning graduate degrees would teach agents "what the priorities are."

Iran's Islamic regime, under the guidance of Shia jurists, continuously fine tunes notions of "proper" conduct — and calibrates its own, interventionist authority. More recently the traffic police chief said women were not allowed to ride motorbikes, and "would be stopped," Prague-based Radio Farda reported.

Days before, a cleric in the holy city of Qom in central Iran insisted that people must be vaccinated by a medic of the same sex "as often as possible," and if not, there should be no pictures of mixed-sex vaccinations.

✍️ Newsletter by Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

Thoughts on Facebook's new name? Zuckerverse? Tell us how the news look in your corner of the world: Drop us a note at info@worldcrunch.com!

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