Italy's tax dodgers face Monti's supercomputer

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The Independent Online

Yesterday marked "D-Day" in the Italian premier Mario Monti's battle against tax-evaders with officials clicking the switch on a powerful new computer system that will rummage around people's bank accounts, in a major push to claw back the country's mission billions.

The trillion-byte-per-second machine, called Serpico – an acronym for "services for contribuenti" (or taxpayers) – will certainly have its work cut out.

Italy loses at least €120bn a year in unpaid taxes. Last year, 15 million people claimed a net income of zero. It is this group that Serpico will target.

Bank of Italy figures last month showed that, in terms of personal wealth, Italians are possibly the richest people in the world. But Italy has one of the world's largest public debts, with arrears of €1.9trn.

Tackling tax evasion is the best way Mr Monti has of turning around Italy's finances – but as the lorry carrying 13 tonnes of gold caught heading for Switzerland in November showed, many people will do anything to avoid coughing up.