- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 27, 2008

BERLIN (AP) — A wide-ranging investigation of tax evasion by Germans stashing their money abroad has led to the recovery of more than $41 million and netted 163 suspects, a prosecutor said yesterday, even as similar probes have begun elsewhere in Europe, the United States and Australia.

In brief televised comments from the western city of Bochum, Hans-Ulrich Krueck said that so far 91 persons targeted in the investigation “have admitted to the facts,” and had already made payments totaling $41.2 million.

“At the moment, that sum is rising daily,” Mr. Krueck said. He added that another 72 persons have turned themselves in to tax authorities.

Mr. Krueck did not name any names or say what the suspects did for a living — in marked contrast to a high-profile Feb. 14 raid on the house of then-Deutsche Post Chief Executive Officer 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.

Mr. Krueck said that the foundations checked thus far had “capital of well over $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 $7.4 million for a CD-ROM believed to contain 1,400 names of suspected 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. The bank, wholly owned by the Alpine principality’s ruling family, has denied wrongdoing.

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 Associated Press has not been able to locate Kieber or obtain comment from him.

Germany’s Finance Ministry has said the acquisition of the disc was legal and has given no information on the informant. On Monday, Britain 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. The countries include Britain, France, Italy, Spain, Canada, the United States, Australia and New Zealand, said Mats Sjostrand, head of the National Tax Board, in an article published yesterday in Stockholm daily Dagens Nyheter.

The U.S. Internal Revenue Service said yesterday it has started “enforcement action” involving more than 100 American taxpayers to ensure proper income reporting and tax payment connected with accounts in Liechtenstein.


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