A whistleblower who offered the Icelandic Directorate of Tax Investigations data documenting tax evasion by individuals with links to Iceland several months ago is asking ISK 150 million (USD 1.1 million, EUR 1 million) for the information, according to a statement from the Ministry of Finance. A massive leak of data from HSBC reportedly shows that the bank assisted clients around the world evade tax.
The Directorate of Tax Investigations has requested support from the government in the purchase of the data. Minister of Finance Bjarni Benediktsson initially said that the ministry would not pay for the purchase “with suitcases of cash.” He added that the Directorate of Tax Investigations had originally said that the information was available for a fee proportional to the collected tax from these accounts. He argues that the directorate has since announced new conditions for the deal.
However, on the ministry’s website, it is stated that the ministry is prepared to pay for the purchase if the information proves useful in investigations of tax evasion but that the purchase decision lies with the directorate.
Chair of the Social Democrats Árni Páll Árnason has criticized Bjarni’s comments, arguing that it is the ministry’s responsibility and questioned whether Bjarni might be deliberately delaying the purchase, ruv.is reports.
One of the six individuals in question has an Icelandic passport while the others have links to the country.
The account information of thousands of HSBC clients was initially leaked to the French government in 2007. It has been described as the biggest banking leak in history, The Guardian reports.
In 2014 the documents were obtained by French newspaper Le Monde, who launched an investigation in collaboration with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) and more than 50 other media outlets around the world, Newsweek reports.
The bank has acknowledged it is accountable for past compliance and control failures and said it is “co-operating with relevant authorities.”
According to the body’s website, the main tasks of the Directorate of Tax Investigations are:
To investigate cases where there is a suspicion of tax fraud.
To represent the state in cases where the penalty procedure takes place through a closed administrative action by the State Internal Revenue Board.
To prepare major cases for criminal proceedings, i.e. prepare cases for further investigation by The National Commissioner of the Icelandic Police and for the Directorate of Public Prosecutions.
The Directorate of Tax Investigations was established in 1993.