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Irish banks included in UK offshore probe

Banks in the Republic of Ireland, including Allied Irish Banks (AIB), the Bank of Ireland, Ulster Bank and the Anglo Irish bank, are among the financial institutions currently being targeted by HM Revenue & Customs office (HMRC) as part of its £80m (€120m) crackdown on tax evasion and offshore banking.

It is understood that the Revenue & Customs office has approached the Revenue Commission (its counterpart in Ireland) to attempt accessing records that banks in Ireland have on accounts that were opened by British citizens.

Aileen Barry, who is a director of national tax investigations with a major Irish law firm, stated that "Irish banks are very definitely targets for the investigation. Notices will also be served on the UK offices of the Irish banks, with a view to accessing records held by them of accounts opened at branches in the republic."

HM Revenue & Customs Office recently began to issue "production orders" to financial institutions located in the UK demanding details of over 30,000 accounts that are suspected of being used to evade taxes.

Ms. Barry said that her firm has already been retained by clients having accounts with Irish banks and who are fearful that British revenue officials will gain access to these accounts by targeting the banks’ UK operations.

The AID, Ulster Bank and Anglo Irish said that they haven’t been contacted by HMC, while the Bank of Ireland declined to say whether it had been contacted. However, the B of I admitted that, "Like all banks, we get requests for information from tax authorities in the jurisdictions in which we operate."

The Revenue Commissioners declined to make any comment on its co-operation with UK officials.