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Secret accounts in Liechtenstein? Czechs involved too

21. 3. 2008
Security agencies pro-active, Finance Ministry cautious
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Prague - Without much commotion or sound, Czech state authorities have asked their German counterparts for information on Czech companies and individuals that may be involved in the Liechtenstein tax evasion scandal.

The affair involves LGT Bank, based in Liechtenstein, which has provided hundreds of Europeans and Americans with secret accounts, in which funds were collected and never declared for taxation purposes in countries of origin of the clients.

The information on foreign bank accounts in Liechtenstein was leaked to the German secret service, allegedly, by one of the bank's employees. German authorities have already offered the data to a number of countries, including the United States, which are beginning to investigate their citizens and companies appearing on the list.

Czechs are among those listed

Aktuálně.cz has learnt that Czech security services have already requested information from their foreign counterparts and confirmed that there were Czechs among those who had accounts at the LGT Bank. Unofficial reports even included names of individuals, however these cannot be verified until the Czech Republic obtains the official list of accounts.

The Czech anti-corruption unit was the agency that has officially asked the Federal Republic of Germany for the data. But after submitting an official request, they were told that another Czech agency has already done so.

"In addition, the case is being approached in an informal way too, on the basis of personal contacts. We will have the official list here, sooner or later," a well-informed state official assured Aktuálně.cz.

The head of the anti-corruption police Jiří Novák refused to give any details about the case. "I can only repeat that we are interested in that information. That's all."

Ministry of Finance passive due to "moral problem"

Police and intelligence services began dealing with the issue in spite of the reluctant stance of the Minister of Finance, Miroslav Kalousek. The minister has publicly stated that he has a moral problem with the Czech officials asking for the data because of its questionable origin.

The problem, apparently, lies in the fact that the German secret service has bought the information from the bank's employee.

"Thus, I find it rational and proper to wait for the Germans to offer us the data themselves," the minister was quoted last week in the Hospodářské noviny daily.

Yet Germany did actually offer the information to all countries whose citizens might be involved. Those that have received the data are now investigating not only possible acts of tax evasion, but corruption as well.

Banks in Liechtenstein, one of the last tax havens in the Western world, store large sums of money that arise from corruption activities all over Europe.

One of the reasons for this is their reluctant cooperation with the police. Liechtenstein is one of the three countries marked by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) as not cooperating on economic issues and thus preserving the status of a tax haven.

The Czech Ministry of Finance, an office that is obliged to act on suspicions of tax evasion, is still reluctant and secretive over its plans to deal with this issue. When asked whether the ministry has asked the Germans for cooperation, the ministry's spokesman Ondřej Jakob declined to answer.

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