Austria minister calls on Britain to unmask foreign depositors

City A.M. Reporter
BRITAIN and the United States must do more to shed light on offshore financial centres in their own back yards in return for information on cross-border tax cheats elsewhere, Austria’s finance minister said yesterday.

With pressure mounting on Austria to abandon its centuries-old tradition of banking secrecy, Maria Fekter said she favoured talks on information-sharing with the United States and within in European Union, “but these cannot be a one-way street”.

“Delaware and Nevada are tax havens and money-laundering havens that have to be laid bare just as much,” Fekter told Die Presse in an interview published yesterday.

“We also want the chances to be a money-laundering and tax haven in Great Britain to be addressed,” she added, noting that EU officials had insisted a bailout of Cyprus include banning anonymous directorships of companies and trusts.

“What we demand of Cyprus, a small island, we also demand of the [United] Kingdom,” said Fekter, a conservative member of Austria’s governing coalition.

Luxembourg, the only other EU country that had refused to swap personal data on savers in its banks, said on Wednesday it would do so by 2015, heaping pressure on Vienna to follow suit.

The European Commission warned Austria on Monday that its banking secrecy would put it in a “lonely and unsustainable position” if it did not adopt the same rules as other countries in sharing data.