Bulgari and Valentino on list of names for tax probe

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The Independent Online

Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is not the only Italian being investigated for tax evasion – fashion designers, bankers and even students are also under scrutiny.

The authorities are poring over a list of nearly 6,000 businesses or individuals, including many household names, who have money stored across the border in the Swiss division of the HSBC bank.

Investigators have said they believe that one-third of the accounts, which total €7bn (£5.9bn), could be being used to evade tax payments in Italy.

Appearing on the Falciani List – named after the HSBC Swiss branch whistleblower Hervé Falciani – are the late filmmaker Sergio Leone; the design stars Valentino and Renato Balestra; jeweller Gianni Bulgari; Elisabetta Gregoraci, wife of former Formula One boss Flavio Briatore; at least one senior banker; and even some Roman aristocrats, including Princess Fabrizia Aragona Pignatelli. It is not expected that evidence will be found against every name on the list.

But the Falciani list illustrates that it is not only the rich and famous who are under scrutiny. Thousands of lesser-known people and anonymous businesses – of the total 5,595 individuals and 133 firms – also figure in what the Italian papers yesterday called "the list of shame".

Italy's financial police said that 51 per cent of those on the list were businessmen, 15 per cent were housewives, 14 per cent professionals, and 11 per cent were company managers.

Intriguingly, 2 per cent of people in the list are said to be students. The extent of the suspected fraud, and the variety of people under investigation, led La Repubblica to describe the list as a "photo of Italy" and to suggest that tax evasion is commonplace in the country.