Germany to try four over Liechtenstein data next week

3rd April 2008, Comments 0 comments

The case is expected to revive questions about the ethics of the German BND intelligence service paying 4.2 million euros for another purloined list of customers of a different Liechtenstein bank, the LGT.

Rostock, Germany -- Germany is to put four men on trial next week for attempting to extort money from the Liechtenstein bank LLB by threatening to reveal data on 2,325 suspected tax dodgers.

The case is expected to revive questions about the ethics of the German BND intelligence service this year paying 4.2 million euros (6.3 million dollars) for another purloined list of customers of a different Liechtenstein bank, the LGT.

Prosecutors in the northern port city of Rostock will need to argue that German authorities buying such a list was legal, but demanding money from Liechtenstein to keep it a secret was a crime.

Liechtenstein, a territory between Switzerland and Austria, insists it is not a tax haven, but its cast-iron bank secrecy has attracted rich people from around the world setting up low-tax trusts.

Four men are to go on trial on April 11 for extortionately obtaining 9 million euros (14 million dollars) from the LLB for returning bank statements they obtained in 2005, prosecutors said Wednesday.

The data was allegedly stolen by a bank employee.

The quartet is said to still possess data on more than 700 customers of the Liechtensteinische Landesbank (LLB) and have been negotiating via their lawyers for a lower sentence in exchange for its return.

The prosecutors declined to comment on the progress in these talks, but stressed that if the data was not returned, the defendants would be deemed to be continuing the extortion, which is said to involve 4 billion euros in hidden funds in the Alpine principality.

The indictment said the group sought to extort 4 million euros from Liechtenstein for the return of the last block of data.

The leader of the group was arrested last year as he was about to leave the country and take refuge in Thailand.

Their lawyers reportedly offered the data to German tax authorities too, but were told that only prosecutors could negotiate over it.

DPA with Expatica

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