Second DVD Surfaces New Twist in Liechtenstein Tax Evasion Scandal
The tax evasion scandal in Germany just got murkier after the appearance of another DVD containing confidential information on people with bank accounts in Liechtenstein. This time the data is reported to come from an alleged blackmailer.
The tiny principality of Liechtenstein has been in the international spotlight since it came to light that German authorities paid millions for information on tax evaders.
The German Finance Ministry confirmed on Friday that it had been offered a DVD with information about more than 2,000 German customers of the Liechtensteinische Landesbank (LLB). German broadcaster ARD broke the news on its Panorma program on Thursday night, in which it reported that the offer came from the lawyers of a man who is currently facing blackmail charges in Rostock. According to the program, the DVD contained details of accounts worth more than 4 billion ($6.2 billion).
The appearance of this second DVD is the latest twist in a tax evasion scandal that started in Germany, but has spread around the world. The affair first hit the headlines when media reports revealed that Germany's foreign intelligence agency, the BND, had paid an informant 4.2 million ($6.5 million) for data about Germans availing of Liechtenstein's banks to evade taxes.
Prosecutors in the northern city of Rostock admitted to Reuters that the latest offer of information related to the LLB bank, but would not confirm the figures. The lawyers are reported to be acting for Michael Freitag, who is currently in jail facing blackmail charges.
The Panorama program also claimed that LLB had already paid 9 million ($13.8 million) to Freitag in return for data. A further payment, the program says, was planned for next year, but then Freitag was arrested.
The Finance Ministry said that it had refered Freitag's lawyers to the officials investigating the tax evasion scandal.
The scandal has already claimed one big name: Deutsche Post CEO Klaus Zumwinkel resigned after authorities raided his home and office. The scandal has also mounted international pressure on Liechtenstein to scrap its banking secrecy laws.