With all apologies to Las Vegas, it’s probably more true to say what happens in Lichtenstein actually stays in Lichtenstein, or at least it used to.
Strict bank secrecy laws have helped make the land-locked European principality a tax haven, but a secret list of account-holders at one bank there has been sold to tax officials in at least two European countries.
A former employee of Lichtenstein’s LGT banks, stole a list of their customers, and then Heinrich Kieber sold the list of German account holders to that country’s foreign intelligence agency, reportedly for more than $6 million. He’s now hiding in Australia.
Last week, German tax authorities conducted dozens of raids on the homes and offices of possible tax evaders on the list. As a result, the German treasury is likely to recover more than $650 million in lost taxes.
Germany’s success prompted British tax authorities to pay some $200,000 for information on the 100 or so wealthy Brits on the list. Now, France, Finland, Canada and the United States all want to know whether any of their citizens are on Kieber’s list.
The IRS declined comment on reports the U.S. has paid for the list of American customers of the Lichtenstein bank, buut Michigan Senator, Carl Levin says, he intends to investigate the small country’s banking practices. His subcommittee estimates the U.S. Treasury loses as much as a $100 billion dollars a year to offshore tax evasion.
Ted Truman, the co-author of “Chasing Dirty Money,” says this will raise the pressure on tax havens to start sharing more banking information.