EU member states 'must tackle tax fraud'
(BRUSSELS) - EU states must tackle tax fraud which costs their cash-strapped governments some one trillion euros a year, the European Commission said Thursday amid growing uproar.
Asked about reports of massive tax evasion involving high-profile figures and companies, Commission spokesman Olivier Bailly said he could not comment on them.
However, he said it was timely to remind everyone that the Commission had "a very firm position on tax fraud in general" and had outlined measures in December to cope with the problem.
The aim was to "limit the cost of tax evasion in Europe, estimated at one thousand billion euros a year," Bailly said.
"For the Commission, there can be no exceptions whether for individuals, companies or third countries who ... abet tax evasion," he said.
In December, the Commission -- the EU's executive arm -- called on member states to work together so as to tighten up on tax havens and loopholes in the law.
"We expect member states to take up this issue," Bailly said.
Asked whether Luxembourg, home to a large financial services sector, counted as a tax haven, Bailly declined to comment directly, saying only that "very clear' rules applied to all member countries.
The issue took on new life Thursday after a probe by the Washington-based International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) sparked more controversy.
Titled "Secrecy for Sale: Inside the Global Offshore Money Maze," the report tracks the alleged involvement of officials, their families and associates in France, Azerbaijan, Russia, Canada, Pakistan, the Philippines, Thailand, Canada, Mongolia and other countries.
French President Francois Hollande was under intense pressure Thursday as it emerged that his one-time campaign treasurer was a partner in companies registered in the Cayman Islands just days after his budget minister was charged over holding a secret foreign bank account.