Maria Fekter said the EU cannot force Austria to reform its banking secrecy laws without also forcing the UK to crack down on tax havens in its jurisdiction
Austria has attacked the UK as “the island of the blessed for tax evasion and money laundering”.
The country’s finance minister, Maria Fekter, has come under intense pressure to put an end to Austria’s long-held tradition of allowing foreigners to bank secretly, but on Thursday attempted to deflect attention towards the UK.
Fekter, a member of Austria’s governing coalition, said the European Union cannot force Austria to reform its controversial banking secrecy laws without also forcing the UK to crack down on tax havens in its jurisdiction.
“We want a trust registry for the Channel Islands, but also for countries where British law applies such as the Cayman Islands, Virgin Islands or Gibraltar,” she said in an interview with Austria’s Kurier newspaper. “These are all areas that are havens for tax refugees.”
In another interview with Austria’s Die Presse she said the UK should be forced to ban anonymous directorships of companies and trusts. “What we demand of Cyprus, a small island, we also demand of the UK,” she said referring to the EU’s ban of anonymous directorships in Cyprus as a condition of the island’s bailout.
More than 175,000 UK-registered companies have used directors giving addresses in offshore jurisdictions, the Guardian reported last week.
Fekter also attacked the US for allowing money laundering in some states. “Delaware and Nevada are tax havens and money-laundering havens that have to be laid bare,” she said.
On Monday the EU warned Austria that it would be left in a “lonely and unsustainable position” if it did not agree to follow other EU countries in sharing data on foreign depositors.
Luxembourg, the only other EU country that had refused to share information on its offshore savers, capitulated on Wednesday and said it would comply with rules by 2015.
The US, which is trying to crack down on its citizens hiding money offshore, is due to start talks with Austria soon.