• Germany's news in English

North Rhine-Westphalia buys info on tax cheats

AFP · 27 Feb 2010, 17:47

Published: 27 Feb 2010 17:47 GMT+01:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

He would not give details on how the transaction was made or how much money was paid for the disc that contains the information but German press reports have given the figure of €2.5 million ($3.4 million).

"The CD was bought in the last couple of days and is now being held by the financial authorities of North Rhine-Westphalia" state, he said.

The data is now to be analysed and prosecutors in the state capital Düsseldorf are to decide on further steps.

The Süddeutsche Zeitung newspaper said Saturday the deal was finalised outside Germany between tax experts from the nearby city of Wuppertal and the anonymous informer who offered to sell the data.

According to several sources, it comes from the second biggest Swiss bank, Credit Suisse and should allow German tax authorities to recover up €400 million.

The federal government in early February gave the green light for North Rhine-Westphalia, home to Germany's historic industrial heartland, the Ruhr Valley, to buy the Swiss CD. The saga prompted a high-profile debate in Germany about paying for illicit data as well as a souring of its relations with Switzerland.

German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble has urged tax fraudsters to turn themselves in before they were found out. The North Rhine-Westphalian state Finance Ministry said Friday the number of people who had done so had nearly doubled within a week to 1,066.

Story continues below…

In 2008, a similar deal netted a long list of names and bank accounts in the principality of Liechtenstein which let officials recover around €200 million in unpaid taxes and led to the arrest of the head of the logistics group Deutsche Post.

In September, Liechtenstein revealed it had since signed a deal with Germany on tax information exchange aimed at clamping down on tax cheats.

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

18:15 February 27, 2010 by Bushdiver
Can I purchase a copy as well?
18:38 February 27, 2010 by Edmond Schindler
What a great idea.

Heck just claiming that they bought one will drive a high number of tax evaders into the offices to clear things up before they can be nabbed with their pants down.

Every State in Germany should at least CLAIM they are buying or have bought thousands of names just to flush out the dead beats! Hell they might ever bring in enough dough to finance a real purchase of a real CD loaded with real tax evaders!
19:13 February 27, 2010 by Celeon
Im longing for mighty switzerland's inevatible "outrage" lol

Anything less than a big fat swastika on some magazine cover would disappointment me greatly. :-D

*grabbin popcorn*

Lets hope that they finally realize that we do not care about their twisted opinion on whats law and justice and we will do what is necessary to hurt their little business for as long as they do not begin to cooperate.

And im talking about serious cooperation against state tolerated organised tax evasion. Which is basically what the so called "Bankgeheimniss" is really all about.

Not that silly "let's pretend we do something and go on as usual once the waves calm down" game they are playing since decades with the rest of the world.
10:37 February 28, 2010 by The-ex-pat
Precedent set, commit a crime to solve a crime!
13:25 February 28, 2010 by Talonx
If you except the idea of a state, you must also except that it has responsibilities as an institution (personally I don't except the state, but anyways). One of these responsibilities involves the siezure of property as evidence. This by no means is a precedent except that, lacking the power to sieze the evidence, they bought it (not all that different than bargaining with a criminal to get more info on a crime).
16:07 February 28, 2010 by The-ex-pat
This by no means is a precedent except that, lacking the power to sieze the evidence, they bought it (not all that different than bargaining with a criminal to get more info on a crime).

They bought stolen property and that is a crime in itself. Until you change the law you cannot make it up as you go along to fit what ever purpose you need.
16:09 February 28, 2010 by Prufrock2010
Is the same person selling this purloined bank information state by state, or are there several copycat information thieves out there looking to make a couple of million euros? The selling of proprietary bank secrets seems to have turned into a cottage industry. It reinforces my belief that bankers are corrupt bastards who would sell out their first born child for a buck.
16:58 February 28, 2010 by merlion
What a wonderful way to get your tax money.

I do not defend those who tried to escape Germany's high tax regime, but buying data obtained criminally puts the German government on an equal footing with any common thief. The government de facto opens the doors wide for anybody to steal corporate information.

It's going to be fun in future, citing government actions as a precence in court when defending thiefs and those who resell the stolen goods.
18:14 February 28, 2010 by Talonx
And the authorities don't seize stolen goods all the time for evidence? I fail to see the difference, between simply seizing it when you can and buying it when you don't want to start a war by seizing it? Would you folks be more comfortable with German authorities invading the Swiss and taking the data?

merlion, oh those poor corporations, there rights are always being violated, well it least they can bribe the U.S. government as much as they want now. What with 100 years of legislation overturned there.
22:36 February 28, 2010 by merlion
Well, Talonx, had they made an effort to confiscate the stolen data, that would be another story. But paying and rewarding a thief?

As I said, I do not defend the tax dodgers. As I understand, the Swiss introduced banking secrecy during the war to protect Jewish assets from Hitler's long fingers. Times have definitely changed and an outdated system has been abused both by banks like UBSand others actively soliciting tax evasion money, and the tax dodgers themselves. I agree, a Swiss bank secrecy overhaul is long overdue, but rewarding thieves is not the way about it.

An while we're at it, Austria, Belgium and the Isle of Man should be treated the same way as the Swiss.
16:41 March 1, 2010 by Talonx
Merlion, I understand the point you are making and would simply reitirate that criminals are rewarded all the time in criminal justice systems across the world for giving up information. I see no major difference except in scale. I would more readily except the logic of your claim if you were to also speak out against plea bargains and informant leniancy in general. Are you prepared to do that? If not an inconsistency exists in your line of reasoning.

Again, at the end of the day I'm a libertarian socialist, I don't like things like states, but I don't think that we should imagine something worse has happened than actually has or for that matter that anything more than business as usual has passed.
Today's headlines
Outrage over ruling on 'brutal' gang rape of teen girl
The now convicted suspects, sitting in court in Hamburg. Photo: DPA.

A 14-year-old girl was gang-raped and left partially clothed and unconscious in freezing temperatures. Now prosecutors are appealing the sentences for the young men found guilty, most of whom will not set foot in jail.

Dozens of Turkish diplomats apply for asylum in Germany
Demonstrators holding a giant Turkish flag protest against the attempted coup in Istanbul in July. Photo: DPA.

Since the failed putsch attempt in Turkey in July, Germany has received 35 asylum applications from people with Turkish diplomatic passports, the Interior Ministry confirmed on Wednesday.

Hertha Berlin fan club criticised for 'anti-gay banner'
Hertha BSC beat FC Cologne 2-1. Photo: DPA

A 50 metre fan banner apparently mocking the idea of gay adoption has overshadowed Hertha BSC's win in the Bundesliga.

Germany stalls Chinese takeover of tech firm Aixtron
Aixtron headquarters in Herzogenrath. Photo: DPA

The German government on Monday said it had withdrawn approval for a Chinese firm to acquire Aixtron, a supplier to the semiconductor industry, amid growing unease over Chinese investment in German companies.

Politicians call for tough sentences for 'killer clowns'
File photo: DPA.

Now that the so-called 'killer clown' craze has spread from the US to Germany, elected officials are drawing a hard line against such "pranks", with some threatening offenders with jail time of up to a year.

Nearly one in ten Germans are severely disabled
Photo: DPA

New figures reveal that 9.3 percent of the German population last year were considered severely disabled.

The Local List
Germany's top 10 most surreal sites to visit
The Upside-Down House, in Mecklenburg–Western Pomerania. Photo: Olaf Meister / Wikimedia Commons

From upside-down houses on Baltic islands to a fairy-tale castle near the Austrian border, Germany is a treasure trove of the extraordinary.

Bavarian critics back Merkel for Chancellor again
Photo: DPA

The Christian Social Union (CSU) have long delayed backing Angela Merkel as their candidate for Chancellor in next year's general election. But now key leaders are supporting her publicly.

Four taken to hospital after hotel toilet bursts into flames
File photo: DPA.

Four guests at a Nuremberg hotel were taken to hospital due to smoke inhalation early Monday morning after a toilet there burst into flames.

Creepy clown scare spreads to Germany
Two of the clowns were apparently equipped with chainsaws. Photo: Pedro Pardo / AFP file picture

Police said Friday five incidents involving so-called scary clowns had occurred in two north German towns, including one assailant who hit a man with a baseball bat, amid fears that Halloween could spark a rash of similar attacks.

10 things you never knew about socialist East Germany
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
How Germans fell in love with America's favourite squash
How I ditched London for Berlin and became a published author
12 clever German idioms that'll make you sound like a pro
23 fascinating facts you never knew about Berlin
9 unmissable events to check out in Germany this October
10 things you never knew about German reunification
10 things you're sure to notice after an Oktoberfest visit
Germany's 10 most Instagram-able places
15 pics that prove Germany is absolutely enchanting in autumn
10 German films you have to watch before you die
6 things about Munich that’ll stay with you forever
10 pieces of German slang you'll never learn in class
Ouch! Naked swimmer hospitalized after angler hooks his penis
Six reasons why Berlin is now known as 'the failed city'
15 tell-tale signs you’ll never quite master German
7 American habits that make Germans very, very uncomfortable
Story of a fugitive cow who outwitted police for weeks before capture
Eleven famous Germans with surnames that'll make your sides split
The best ways to get a visa as an American in Germany
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd