ROCK OF CONTENTION

Spain and Gibraltar agreed taxation talks before maritime dispute flared up

Madrid contacted the Rock to inquire about 30 cases of possible evasion, the first inter-governmental contact of this kind

Luis Gómez
Gibraltar -

Spain requested financial information from Gibraltar on 30 individuals and companies weeks before authorities on the Rock began sinking concrete blocks in response to the tug-of-war over territorial waters, it has emerged. The petitions were sent directly to Gibraltar's tax office and the UK via diplomatic channels.

"It is the first time Spain has asked Gibraltar for anything and this shows that the process of exchange of information is underway," Gibraltar's chief minister, Fabian Picardo, told EL PAÍS. "We see this as a very positive development."

Spain's tax authority sent the request in line with an EU directive of January 1, 2013 on tax cooperation between member states, which both Spain and Gibraltar have written into their own legislation. It requires all member states to reply to any request over possible banking irregularities or tax fraud within six months.

On April 25, United Left deputy Gaspar Llamazares asked the government in Congress why no exchange of information agreement had been signed with the "tax haven" of Gibraltar. The response came on June 18, the same day that Picardo invited Finance Minister Cristóbal Montoro to reinitiate talks on an "exchange of tax information that were advanced but collapsed because of political reasons." Montoro had said on April 22 that his ministry was working on a plan to "tighten the net on Gibraltar" in a crackdown on tax evasion.

Picardo responded to this declaration by inviting Montoro's team to Gibraltar "to talk to our authorities about all the issues concerning Spain. I can't think of a better way to dissipate their doubts, if these are genuine and not a mere desire to attack us politically."

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