Italians arrest ex-Swiss banker for ‘tax fraud’

Authorities in Milan said on Monday that they have detained a former Swiss banker for allegedly helping wealthy Italian clients evade taxes and launder large sums of money, including the proceeds of embezzlement.

Italians arrest ex-Swiss banker for 'tax fraud'
Dollfus is based in Lugano, the third largest banking centre in Switzerland after Zurich and Geneva. Photo: Switzerland Tourism

Italian financial police (Guardia di Finanza) from Varese northwest of Milan said that Filippo Dollfus, a former board member of the Cornèr Bank in Lugano in the Swiss canton of Ticino was arrested last week.

Dollfus, aided by a Milan accountant arrested in March 2013, is accused of helping clients in the creation of shell companies based in Switzerland, Luxembourg and the Netherlands.

He also allegedly provided assistance in the creation of offshore companies in tax havens.

Ledgers seized from the accountant identified hundreds of accounts of wealthy Italians who hid “several billion euros” from the taxman over 40 years, the Italian website VareseNews reported online.

The paper reported that Dollfus was arrested in Milan after he crossed the border from Switzerland to attend the communion of his niece.

Citing information from the Italian authorities, the ATS news agency in Switzerland reported that the former Swiss banker operated a company established in Lugano, as well as a branch in Milan.

The company, acting as an intermediary, handled financial operations totalling around 800 million euros, from the initial evidence, according to the financial police, ATS said.

But the Italian police said this amount could be significantly higher, describing a “veritable multinational (financial) recycling” operation.

Dollfus, whose family held a 25.2 percent ownership in the Cornèr Bank at the end of 2014, was a member of the bank’s board of directors from 1996 to 2012, ATS said.

The bank issued a statement in Italian on its website in which it distanced itself from “the arrest of Filippo Dollfus”.

It underlined that Dollfus has not been a member of the bank’s board of directors since March 2012 and that his activities as a trustee had “nothing to do with the bank”.

The bank said the Piotrkowski-Dollfus family is a minority shareholder in the bank and that no family representative, including Filippo Dollfus, has ever played an operating role with the banking group.

Dollfus’s cousin, lawyer Marco Piotrkowski, told the 20 Minuti newspaper he learned of Dollfus’s arrest on Monday morning.

“The fact he was arrested is not good for the image of the bank, but I want to clarify that his fiduciary activities have nothing to do either with the family or Cornèr Bank,” Piotrkowski is quoted as saying.
In any case, until proven otherwise, Dollfus should benefit from the presumption of innocence, he added.

Founded in Lugano in 1952, the Corner Bank Group specializes in private banking, as well as credit cards (Cornèrcard) and online trading.

It operates branches in Chiasso and Locarno (both in the canton of Ticino), Zurich and Geneva, and has affiliates in Luxembourg and Nassau in the Bahamas. 

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Italy’s Renzi wants ex-ECB boss Draghi to become prime minister: report

Ex-PM Matteo Renzi would like to see former European Central Bank chief Mario Draghi become prime minister of Italy, a party source told Reuters on Sunday.

Italy's Renzi wants ex-ECB boss Draghi to become prime minister: report
Matteo Renzi. Image: Andreas Solaro/ POOL / AFP

“I would say that is one of our proposals,” confirmed the source, who declined to be named.

The Italian government collapsed last week when PM Giuseppe Conte resigned. The former coalition allies are currently trying to come to an agreement and sort out their differences.

The centre-left government had been in turmoil ever since former premier Matteo Renzi withdrew his Italia Viva party earlier this month, a move that forced Conte to step down this week.

During the past year, Renzi frequently criticised Conte’s management of the pandemic and economic crisis.

Italy’s La Stampa newspaper also reported on Sunday that President Sergio Mattarella was considering Draghi for the prime ministerial role. However, Mattarella’s office promptly denied this, saying there had been no contact between them.

So far, there has been no comment from Draghi, who hasn't been seen much in the public eye since 2019.

Italy's president, Sergio Mattarella, gave ruling parties more time on Friday to form a new government, after the resignation of Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte. 

Coalition parties Italia Viva, the centre-left Democratic Party (PD) and anti-establishment 5-Star Movement must come to an agreement to allow the government to heal. 

Renzi, a former prime minister himself, has pubilcly stated that he does not want to talk about who should lead the next government at this stage, reasoning that the parties need to agree on a way forward first.

“Any effort today to fuel a discussion about Draghi is offensive to Draghi and above all to the president of the republic,” Renzi said in an interview published on Sunday with Corriere della Sera.

A senior Italia Viva lawmaker also told Reuters that “If the president gives a mandate to Draghi, we would certainly support this”. 

Renzi, whose party is not even registering three percent support in opinion polls, quit the coalition over Conte’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic and his plans for spending more than 200 billion euros from a European Union fund to help Italy’s damaged economy.

READ ALSO: Why do Italy's governments collapse so often?