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CRIME

North Rhine-Westphalia buys info on tax cheats

Germany's most populous state North Rhine-Westphalia has purchased stolen information on 1,500 suspected German tax cheats holding bank accounts in Switzerland, a regional government spokesman said on Saturday.

North Rhine-Westphalia buys info on tax cheats
Photo: DPA

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.

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.

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CRIME

German man jailed for killing petrol station worker in mask row

A 50-year-old German man was jailed for life Tuesday for shooting dead a petrol station cashier because he was angry about being told to wear a mask while buying beer.

German man jailed for killing petrol station worker in mask row

The September 2021 murder in the western town of Idar-Oberstein shocked Germany, which saw a vocal anti-mask and anti-vaccine movement emerge in response to the government’s coronavirus restrictions.

The row started when 20-year-old student worker Alex W. asked the man to put on a mask inside the shop, as required in all German stores at the time.

After a brief argument, the man left.

The perpetrator – identified only as Mario N. – returned about an hour and a half later, this time wearing a mask. But as he bought his six-pack of beer to the till, he took off his mask and another argument ensued.

He then pulled out a revolver and shot the cashier in the head point-blank.

On Tuesday, the district court in Bad-Kreuznach convicted Mario N. of murder and unlawful possession of a firearm, and handed him a life sentence.

READ ALSO: Shock in Germany after cashier shot dead in Covid mask row

Under German law, people given a life sentence can usually seek parole after 15 years. His defence team had sought a sentence of manslaughter, rather than murder.

At the start of the trial, prosecutor Nicole Frohn told how Mario N. had felt increasingly angry about the measures imposed to curb the pandemic, seeing them as an infringement on his rights.

“Since he knew he couldn’t reach the politicians responsible, he decided to kill him (Alex W.),” she said.

Mario N. turned himself in to police the day after the shooting.

German has relaxed most of its coronavirus rules, although masks are still required in some settings, such as public transport.

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