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Danish bank exposed for advising clients to stash money offshore

A documentary by the Danish Broadcasting Corporation used hidden camera footage to reveal a leading bank advising clients to hide money in offshore tax havens.

The third largest bank in Denmark, Jyske Bank, was exposed this week for its tax advice on offshore financial havens, in a documentary that marked the first news report to use ICIJ’s Offshore Leaks data in Denmark.

The program was the third of four investigative documentaries in a broader series on offshore finance, entitled “Inside tax havens,” produced by ICIJ’s Danish partner, the documentary department at the Danish Broadcasting Corporation (DR Dokumentar).

A journalist from DR Dokumentar visited Jyske Bank’s subsidiary in Zürich, Switzerland, posing as a businessman and filming with a hidden camera.  The journalist later met with the bank in London and Copenhagen.  

Although the bank’s official policy is that it doesn’t advice Danes to move their money to tax havens, that is exactly what happened.

The journalist told the bank that while living in Denmark, he had invented an app that a Danish company would pay him around $725,000 to purchase. Danish law states that in this situation he would have to pay tax in Denmark even if he left the country, according to experts consulted by DR Dokumentar.

Jyske Bank advised the journalist to move to England, create a company in Gibraltar, and place his money with Jyske Bank Zürich.

It also advised him to wait a couple of months after he left Denmark before collecting the $725,000, in order to avoid paying tax on the deal in Denmark.  

Experts said that the bank’s advice was immoral, encouraged tax evasion and in some cases even constituted tax fraud.  

The Danish tax Minister Holger K. Nielsen reacted strongly to DR Dokumentar’s revelations.

“I think it’s shocking that Jyske Bank is giving this kind of advice. Tax evasion and tax avoidance are very serious things. It’s a criminal offense. And I don’t understand, and I’m also quite surprised, that a big Danish bank is giving this kind of advice,” Nielsen told Danish Broadcasting Corporation.   

The program also revealed that Jyske Bank was mentioned several times in the ICIJ’s Offshore Leaks database. In one document the corporate service provider Portcullis TrustNet highlighted Jyske Bank as one of 10 banks that it had financial relationships with.

“It shows that they had a very ongoing relationship with this bank,” ICIJ director Gerard Ryle said in the program.

DR’s news department also published stories that showed that there are more than 50 Danes in the ICIJ database, most of them businessmen. The most prominent of them are two very wealthy Danes from the clothing industry living in China. None of the persons that DR interviewed were willing to explain on camera why they used offshore companies.

In the documentary, Jyske Bank also gave the journalist from DR Dokumentar a cash card with no name on it, so the journalist could use it in Denmark without the Danish tax authorities tracking him down. Jyske Bank also told the journalist that his family could get tax deductions if he made a huge loan to his grown up kids.

Jyske Bank strongly denied that they have broken any laws or done anything wrong.

”It’s not tax advice. It’s ideas, thoughts and suggestions on what to do,” said Jens Lauritzen, director of Jyske Bank Private Banking,

The programs have also alarmed the Danish Prime Minister, Helle Thorning-Schmidt.

“I think it’s very important that the Danish government should always be considering if there’s more than can be done , and how we check tax fraud,” she said in the Danish Parliament.

 Last year the profits for Jyske Bank’s two subsidiaries in the tax havens Switzerland and Gibraltar alone were more than $27 million. 

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