German tax probe draws in other countries

27th February 2008, Comments 0 comments

A German probe into tax evasion based on information stolen from a Liechtenstein bank widened to draw in other European countries as well as those further a field.

Berlin -- A German probe into tax evasion based on information stolen from a Liechtenstein bank widened Tuesday to draw in other European Union members and countries as far away as Australia.

German prosecutors released an interim report saying 91 suspects had admitted offences linked to foundations operated by Liechtenstein banks.

They had uncovered 200 million euros (300 million dollars) stashed away, the prosecutors office in the city of Bochum, which is leading the probe, said.

The Financial Times reported that Germany was ready to pass on information it had bought from a former employee of the LGT bank in the principality for 4.2 billion euros to other countries free of charge.

The financial daily named Finland, Sweden, Norway and the Netherlands.

In Paris, the French tax authorities said they had received information from their German counterparts, making clear they had not paid for the data.

British press reports said the domestic revenue service was probing hundreds of suspected tax evaders after paying 100,000 pounds (133,000 dollars) for information purchased from an informant, thought to be the same man who sold information to the Germans.

In Stockholm the Swedish Tax Agency said it had around 100 Swedish nationals in its sights.

"The disclosure of hidden money on secret accounts in Liechtenstein clearly shows that there are no safe havens for those who want to cheat with their taxes," Director General Mats Sjostrand wrote in the Stockholm daily Dagens Nyheter.

But Danish Tax Minister Kristian Jensen told the financial daily Borsen Denmark would "not use stolen information" and "would not pay for stolen information" in efforts to track tax evaders.

Finnish tax authorities were likely to ask for the names of any Finnish nationals mentioned, the daily Helsingin Sanomat reported Tuesday.

In Germany, the Bochum prosecutors said employees at three domestic banks were under investigation.

"Taxes have been evaded to an immense extent," a spokesman told journalists.

He said 72 people had come forward to make revised tax assessments and that the inland revenue service had taken in an additional 27.8 million euros in unpaid taxes.

The figures were rising by the day, the spokesman said.

Apart from the LGT bank in Liechtenstein, another foreign bank was involved, the spokesman said. He refused to provide further information for fear of jeopardizing the investigation, but it was widely reported that the second bank was also in the principality.

The probe is based on data bought by the BND national intelligence services for a reported 4.2 million euros from a former LGT employee.

The spokesman said prosecutors were working on the assumption that their use of the information was in accordance with German law.

The Liechtenstein authorities have expressed outrage at the use of stolen information bought from a man who has a conviction in the Alpine principality.

The tax evasion scandal broke on February 14, when prominent German businessman Klaus Zumwinkel was shown on national television being led from his house by prosecutors.

Zumwinkel resigned as head of the international logistics concern Deutsche Post the next day.

DPA with Expatica

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