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Taxes

Greek auditors place wealthy depositors under general suspicion

Greece's aggressive pursuit of suspected tax evaders has gotten a significant boost. Auditors now have full access to bank information on 1.2 million wealthy Greeks. But their investigation could take a while.

In Greece's fight against tax evasion, investigators may have found the silver bullet.

Athens has granted its tax collectors the ability to audit anyone with more than 100,000 euros ($135,000) in Greek banks, Greek media reported Sunday.

If an account holder cannot explain where the money came from, steep fines could ensue.

But investigators are facing a mammoth task - the Greek Finance Ministry estimates some 1.2 million accounts with at least six-figure balances must be meticulously cross-checked with tax returns to see if any discrepancies arise.

In total, investigators will be combing through 43 billion euros worth of deposits.

That task has been made no less daunting by the fact that Athens only put six auditors on the job. At its current capacity, the taxmen may need up to 15 years to finish the job, according to a Finance Ministry official who spoke to the German news agency dpa.

When it comes to cracking down on suspected tax evaders, the Greeks have been known to drag their feet.

So far, the publication of the so-called "Lagarde List" - a list of Greeks with Swiss bank accounts, which the government is accused of covering up - has led to a mere four people being fined since 2010.

The banks have already provided the auditors with the necessary data - 65 CDs with names and account information have been sent to the Finance Ministry.

cjc/uhe (dpa, Reuters)

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