SPAIN'S tax agency aims to crack down on fraud in the financial and property sectors in 2003, the Finance Ministry said yesterday following a series of financial scandals in 2002. “All areas (of the property sector) will come under inspection ... from housing estates, construction and development to related industries, subcontractors, use of property developments and capital gains on the reclassification of land,” it said in a statement. Spain's property sector has boomed amid historically low interest rates, with prices up two digits annually in each of the last four years and 15 percent in new housing last year alone. As regards the finance sector, the ministry said it would closely follow all deals with links abroad, in particular in relation to tax havens. In 2002 Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria, Spain's second–biggest bank, revealed that it had offshore accounts which it had kept off its books for years, leading to the resignation of most of the bank's senior management. “One of the objectives of these checks will be to find resident taxpayers who use third–party companies,” it said. It will also track abusive stock market deals as well as transactions aimed at producing fictitious losses. That move comes in the wake of the collapse of a small stock broker Gescartera in 2001, which hurt small investors and rocked the financial sector. The Finance Ministry plans tighter controls on residents who use non–resident accounts – which are tax free for EU citizens.

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