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German prosecutors: 163 admit wrongdoing in expanding tax investigation

German prosecutors: 163 admit wrongdoing in expanding tax investigation

A wide-ranging investigation of tax evasion by Germans stashing their money abroad has led to the recovery of euro27.8 million (US$41.19 million) and netted 163 people, a prosecutor said Tuesday, even as similar probes have been spawned elsewhere in Europe, the U.S. and Australia.
In brief televised comments from the western city of Bochum, Hans-Ulrich Krueck said that so far 91 people targeted in the investigation "have admitted to the facts," and had already made payments totaling euro27.8 million (US$41.2 million).
"At the moment, that sum is rising daily," Krueck said. He added that another 72 people have turned themselves in to tax authorities.
Krueck did not name any names or say what they did for a living _ a marked contrast with a high-profile Feb. 14 raid on the house of then-Deutche Post chief executive Klaus Zumwinkel.
Prosecutors in the investigation _ which now has prompted probes as far afield as Australia _ say the suspects evaded taxes by putting money in foundations in the tiny tax haven of Liechtenstein.
Krueck said that the foundations checked so far had "capital of well over euro200 million," or US$296 million.
"Through the concealment of this capital and the returns that therefore were omitted, taxes were evaded on an immense scale," he said. He did not give a specific figure.
German tax officials and prosecutors conducted raids up and down the country after the country's intelligence service paid an informant as much as euro5 million (US$7.4 million) for a CD-ROM believed to contain 1,400 names of alleged tax cheats, about 600 of them Germans.
Liechtenstein's LGT Group says it assumes the data were sold by Heinrich Kieber, a Liechtenstein citizen who has been convicted in his home country of stealing personal information from LGT Treuhand, a unit of LGT Group.
In a statement this week, LGT said that as far as it is concerned "the data material illegally disclosed to the German authorities is limited, with almost complete certainty, to the client data stolen from LGT Treuhand in 2002."
The AP has not been able to locate Kieber or obtain comment from him.
Germany's government has said the money paid for the data was well-invested, but Liechtenstein's leaders have criticized the move.
Germany's Finance Ministry has said the acquisition of the disc was legal and has given no information on the informant. On Monday, Britain also confirmed that it also had bought the disc.
Sweden's tax chief said Sweden and eight other countries have been working with German authorities to reveal tax cheats in Liechtenstein. They include Britain, France, Italy, Spain, Canada, the United States, Australia and New Zealand, Mats Sjostrand, head of the National Tax Board, said in an article published Tuesday in Stockholm daily Dagens Nyheter.
"For Sweden it's about 100 Swedes with bank assets in this so-called tax paradise," Sjostrand said.
Leif Rosenfeld, head of the international division of Sweden's National Tax Board, told The AP that Sweden had not received any of its information from Germany, and also said Sweden had not paid for any of the information.
In Paris, the French budget ministry said tax authorities are studying information concerning people with bank accounts in Liechtenstein "susceptible of being used to evade taxes." It said it did not pay for the information, which was passed on by other governments.
Liechtenstein officials have defended the practice of allowing foreigners to open trusts there anonymously by registering them through a local attorney or trustee, and say reforms currently being prepared are unrelated to the German scandal.
LGT, owned by Liechtenstein's ruling family, has denied any wrongdoing.
Bochum prosecutors said that searches of banks were motivated either by the fact that suspects had accounts there or that employees were suspected of helping clients evade taxes. Krueck said that "a few employees" at three German banks had been under suspicion, but did not offer more details.
During the investigation, "the name emerged of a second foreign bank which is believed to have offered assistance to the administration of the invested money in a similar way," he added.
Prosecutors did not identify the bank. Banks that have said their offices were searched include Switzerland's UBS AG; Hamburg-based Berenberg Bank; German private banks Bankhaus Metzler and Hauck & Aufhaeuser; and a branch of Dresdner Bank AG.
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Associated Press writers Geir Moulson and Melissa Eddy in Berlin, Louise Nordstrom in Stockholm, Sweden, Jan M. Olsen in Copenhagen, Denmark, and AP Business Writer Emma Vandore in Paris contributed to this report.


Updated : 2021-02-28 00:43 GMT+08:00