Germany buys secret bank disc to snare tax evaders
The German government said Friday it had bought a disc containing the names of suspected tax evaders who are thought to have squirrelled away assets in Luxembourg, hidden from the taxman.
"In consultation with the federal government, the state of North Rhine-Westphalia bought a CD-ROM relating to Luxembourg," a finance ministry spokeswoman, Silke Bruns, told reporters at a regular news conference.
The data on the disc would be shared with all of Germany's 16 states, added Bruns, insisting that the government was acting "completely legally."
The Financial Times Deutschland reported earlier Friday that North Rhine-Westphalia had paid three million euros ($4.1 million) for the information.
The paper added that prosecutions for suspected tax fraud could begin as soon as next month.
German tax authorities reportedly recovered around 1.6 billion euros in 2009 from people who stashed their cash in secret accounts in Liechtenstein and Switzerland after buying up stolen banking data in a move that soured relations with its neighbours.
In 2008 a former employee of Liechtenstein's biggest bank sold data on client accounts held in the secretive Alpine banking haven to the German secret service for five million euros.
The affair triggered a high profile crackdown on tax evasion in Germany, prompting investigations into business-leaders, sports stars and entertainers, and resulting in the conviction of former Deutsche Post head Klaus Zumwinkel.
Germany's top court has said that using stolen data in this way to snare tax cheats is legal.
© 2011 AFP