Prague - The identities of around 130,000 holders of bank accounts in the British Virginia Islands and other offshore tax havens were exposed last week by the Washington-based International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) in Berlin.
Germany, the global leader in the fight against tax havens, has received a welcome boost for its efforts. Berlin now hopes that it will be able to convince G-20 and OECD members to take part in a massive action against these offshore havens.
German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schauble asked the ICIJ to reveal the names of about 4,000 German citizens on the list to the German government, though Germany's Suddeutsche Zeitung newspaper that has the information at its disposal refused to pass it to the government.
Czech officials are interested in Czech names on the list as well, Finance Ministry spokesman Ondrej Jakob told Aktualne.cz. "The financial analytical unit of the ministry has already taken some active steps to obtain information on possible Czech entities and persons (on the list), but because of the obligation of confidentiality and ongoing investigation, I cannot reveal any details," said Jakob.
German officials argue that it is not necessarily illegal to transfer money to offshore havens, but it is certainly immoral, because profits are not taxed in the country where they are earned.
The European Union has no unified stance on the issue though. Some of the tax havens in question, such as the Virgin Islands, Bermudas and Cayman Islands, are British Overseas Territories.
"There is only one effective measure against these tax havens. A concentrated and strong international pressure. But I lean to thinking that this will not be possible. For example, in the European Union alone there is, so to say, the tax semi-paradise Cyprus, and the countries that do not like it were not able to do anything about it for a long time," said Postovni Sporitelna (Postal Savings Bank) analyst Jan Bures.
autor: Martin Novak