07/16/2012 03:42 pm ET

Italy's Super-Rich Move Their Yachts Amid Tax Evasion Crackdown

Wealthy Italians are sailing away to calmer shores.

In an attempt to reign in alleged tax dodgers, Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti has ordered a crackdown on yacht owners who claim low or no income, The Telegraph reports (h/t The Daily Mail). Monti's government has also instituted a 700 euro per-day tax on large yachts in Italian harbors.

Several thousand of Italy's wealthy are voting against the policy with their feet, or, in this case, motors. About 30,000 yachts have been moved to outside ports already, according to the Daily Mail.

This has cost Italian ports about 200 euros in lost fees, The Telegraph reports. "This is the worst crisis in Italian boating history," Roberto Perocchio, the president of Assomarinas, told The Telegraph. "The authorities are using scare tactics and creating a climate of fear."

Italy already has one of the worst tax evasion records in the developed world. More than a quarter of Italy's gross domestic product is estimated to be off the books, according to data from Italy's central bank cited by the Wall Street Journal. Even former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has been accused of failing to pay taxes, the BBC reports.

The problem is so severe that Monti has initiated a crackdown on tax-dodging luxury car owners as well, Reuters reports. The move resulted in a 50 percent and 70 percent slump in Ferrari and Maserati sales, respectively, during the first quarter of the 2012 fiscal year. The ambitious hope, as outlined by deputy director-general of the central bank Anna Tarantola in WSJ, is that Italy could halve its 2 trillion euros in public debt in less than one decade by cracking down on tax evasion for good.