Dáil Éireann - Volume 576 - 10 December, 2003

Written Answers. - Revenue Commissioners' Investigations.

  26. Mr. Costello asked the Minister for Finance the progress made to date by the offshore assets group of the Revenue Commissioners in its investigations into the use, for the purposes of tax evasion, of offshore bank accounts and trusts by Irish residents; the total amount of such funds identified to date; the total amount of tax collected in respect of these accounts; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30082/03]

  Minister for Finance (Mr. McCreevy):I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that their offshore assets group was established in the autumn of 2001 for the purpose of inquiring into the use, for the purposes of tax evasion, of offshore bank accounts and trusts and the purchase of properties abroad. Since then the group has been examining this matter generally and currently has three financial institutions under inquiry in relation to the offshore activities of their subsidiaries.

  Arising from these inquiries and other voluntary disclosures, the Revenue Commissioners have to date collected in excess of €125 million from persons holding funds offshore. This amount has been paid by 325 taxpayers. It is not possible for the commissioners to establish the amount held abroad by Irish residents as the funds held in offshore jurisdictions by financial institutions, including subsidiaries of Irish financial institutions, are obtained from a wide variety of sources.

  The commissioners will be inquiring into all Irish financial institutions which have or have had subsidiaries operating in offshore jurisdictions with a view to establishing the identity of Irish residents holding funds in these jurisdictions. These inquiries, while seeking to establish the identity of Irish residents holding offshore accounts, will also deal with the institutions' compliance with general tax law and with their obligations under the Finance Acts 1992 and 1995 to report to Revenue where they facilitated the opening of an offshore account or the sale of a material interest in an offshore fund.

  The chairman of the Revenue Commissioners has recently stated before the Committee of Public Accounts that Revenue will seek to pursue the issue of aiding and abetting tax evasion where evidence emerges that this occurred. The commissioners are also committed to including aiding and abetting as a feature in all future prosecution programmes.