Offshore Banking: The Secret Threat to America

Offshore Banking: The Secret Threat to America

In November 1932, deputy Fabien Albertin took the floor of the National Assembly in Paris to denounce tax evasion by eminent French personalities-politicians, judges, industrialists, church dignitaries, and directors of newspapers-who were hiding their money in Switzerland.

“The minister of finance knows very well that for ten years, the concern of all his predecessors has been to track down this fraud . . . ” he declared. “However, till now, the information one has gotten has been extremely vague. When documents arrive, they are formless notebooks in which holders of accounts are represented only as numbers. Employees of the banks don’t know the names of account holders. These names are known only to the director of the bank, who the clients forbid to correspond with them, so anxious are they to preserve anonymity.”

He said, “If one reads the Swiss newspapers this morning, one sees that public opinion in Switzerland dreads the massive shrinking of sums that have been deposited in its banks-of which it enjoys exclusive profit.”

There had been a raid on a building on the rue de la Trémoille in the aristocratic district of the Champs-Élysées, where officials of a Swiss bank had a five-room apartment. Police had passed through a crowd of impatient clients in the waiting room, entered the office, and seized all available documents.

Albertin argued that the operation should have occurred earlier, as the business had gone on without interruption for ten days. Even so, the police collected 245,000 French francs, 2,000 Swiss francs, and even more important, an index, a cashbook, a file, and ten large notebooks with two thousand names.

A parliamentarian shouted, “We want to know them!”
Albertin answered, “The minister knows . . .”
But the finance minister declared, “Ah! No! Mr. Albertin, I don’t know this list at all.”
And Albertin replied, “I am going to satisfy your curiosity. Some will say, ‘Ah! You socialists are happy to dishonor political adversaries and show that there are classes in society!’ Yes, there are classes. And in this scandal, the ruling elite of society shows its selfishness and unwillingness to obey French law!”

His list included deputies, senators, and judges, whose role, he pointed out, was to make and apply the laws. He called them men of “a particularly ticklish patriotism” who, he noted with irony, “probably are unaware that the money they deposit abroad is lent by Switzerland to Germany.” That Switzerland was Hitler’s banker was already known. Albertin noted sardonically that such people never made loans to the French defense effort. He added that the list included a dozen generals, even the comptroller of the army.
He began to name the names of the tax evader elite, including two bishops, who he said, “though the kin...