German border patrols are halting tax cheats trying to sneak cash into the country hidden in their underwear after Swiss banks started naming holders of secret accounts to the government.
The banks may have held up to £112 billion in illegal accounts in Switzerland on behalf of British and German taxpayers.
Now many Germans are trying to get their money home in cash before the taxman finds out about their secret stashes.
Since the banks agreed to hand over information about their customers and their accounts to governments, the Germans alone have handled 36,000 appeals under a tax amnesty.
But thousands more are attempting to carry on cheating the taxman by smuggling their money home.
Secret money belts
German law permits someone to bring around £8,400 in cash across the border without making a declaration, but customs officers say far larger sums are in transit:
- A man aged 72 was stopped carrying £126,000 stuffed into a woman’s corset he was wearing under his clothes.
- Another had £120,000 hidden in incontinence pads.
- Another smuggler tried to hide £21,000 in a gingerbread house
“Two pensioners hid money in their shoes, and someone hid money under a car battery,” said a German customs spokesman. “We regularly have people wearing secret money belts or with wads of money in their underwear.”
“We are just scratching the surface of the real problem.”
Even The Vatican has ordered a money laundering investigation after a senior finance official was caught trying to smuggle cash out of Switzerland in a plane for rich friends.
He was trying to move the cash to Italy.
Vatican under investigation
The plot was revealed when investigators found discrepancies in a Vatican bank account.
A spokesman suggested around £33 billion cash was involved in several similar operations.
HM Revenue and Customs is calling for offshore bank account holders in Switzerland and other nations to come forward with the lure of reduced fines and penalties.
So far thousands have signed up for the campaign and HMRC has collected up to £3 billion in ‘lost’ taxes.
The US justice department is also prosecuting Swiss bankers for their part in helping Americans evade taxes, which has also raised billions of dollars in taxes and in part, contributed to the new Foreign Account Tax compliance Act (FATCA).
FATCA, which comes into force next year, will see the automatic exchange of banking information between the US and more than 50 other nations.