German prosecutors charged four men Friday with using customer data to blackmail a Liechtenstein bank and its customers.
Liechtensteinische Landesbank AG, or LLB, has said it was the victim of blackmail between 2003 and 2007 in a case that is unrelated to a wider tax evasion investigation involving Germans dodging taxes through accounts with the tiny Alpine principality.
Prosecutors in Rostock said the four men _ identified only as Michael A., 41; Thomas K., 43; Michael F., 48; and Jens P., 50 _ are suspected of blackmailing the bank after unsuccessfully trying to press clients whose private data they had obtained for money.
The group stole at least 2,325 bank statements containing clients' names, addresses and account balances from an unidentified LLB employee. They used the information to contact the individuals and demand a percentage of their savings in exchange for not handing the information over to German financial authorities, but failed to collect any money.
In a second attempt, prosecutors claimed that Michael F. and Thomas K. tried to press LLB into paying them euro13 million (US$19.7 million) in exchange for returning the statements, or risk having the information handed over to German tax authorities, prosecutors said.
If found guilty of blackmail, all four men face sentences of up to five years. They remain in custody pending trial.