On Rats

Bruce Krasting's picture

A few background facts to make a point:

Way back in 2007 a fellow by the name of Herve Falciani was working as a computer guy for HSBC in Geneva, Switzerland. He stole the bank records of 24,000 customers who were stashing money. Herve gave the list to the French IRS and it ended in 2009 with 3,000 French citizens getting whacked very hard. It also caused a big stink between Paris and Bern. The Swiss don’t like it when people steal information that is, by Swiss law, secret.

Herve became a bit of a hero in France. He went on TV and said he did what he did without getting paid for his efforts (a claim that I always doubted). Later he moved to Barcelona.

He was arrested on July 1. The Swiss government formally requested extradition back to Switzerland on July 5 so that he could stand trial. It will be interesting to see if the Spanish are going to resist the extradition request (it has no valid reason to resist). It looks as if poor old Herve is going back to Switzerland, where he will stand trial for his crimes, and he’s going to jail.

There are a number of stories similar to this one. In 2010 another guy stole records from Credit Suisse and turned them over to the Germans. This time the fellow got paid E2.5m for his efforts. But unfortunately he never got a chance to spend it. He went to prison, where he committed suicide.

The most recent example came on July 19, when it was revealed that that tax authorities in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany, paid over $4m in cash to yet another guy who had stolen data. This time it was Coutts bank in Zurich that got “robbed”.

The most recent example (and the extradition of Herve) are causing a very big stir between the Swiss and their neighbors. The Swiss president, Widmer-Schlumpf, has been trying to negotiate a tax treaty that would prevent Germany from paying a bounty to have information about tax cheats stolen. The latest development makes a sham of her efforts.

I bring this up as I find it all very curious. I also bring it up because the US is going in exactly the same direction. It is hiring bounty hunters to track down tax cheats. The problem with the US whistle blower effort is that it has not produced any meaningful results.

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One powerful US Senator is doing his best to light a fire under the IRS. Senator Grassely (R. - IO) wrote the following letter (link: PDF) to the IRS Commissioner in an effort to bust some folks and collect some dough.

 
 
 
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Grassley would like to hire "Blackwater" to kick some ass and collect some taxes. That kind of black shirt, vigilantism scares the hell out of me.

If these kinds of tax collecting techniques are what is really necessary, then its time to junk the existing system, and replace it with a consumption tax.

We don’t want more rats looking at garbage (and hard drives) for secrets. There's too much of that already.

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