Media reports expose secret deals in tax havens

Media reports expose secret deals in tax havens

2.5 million documents leaked to media in 46 countries show how shell companies and so-called trusts are used to hide large private assets from the tax authorities and to conceal dubious transactions.

The "suddeutsche zeitung" and the north german radio (NDR) reported on thursday about the gigantic data set with confidential information from ten tax havens.

However, it is unclear how explosive this information actually is. The public prosecutor’s offices in bochum and dusseldorf, which have been hunting suspected tax evaders for a long time, do not yet see any reason for new investigations. "There is little new about the alleged revelations – and the fact that the reporting comes at a time when news is scarce is probably no coincidence," said a bochum official spokesman. In dusseldorf, too, there is no evidence of a criminal offense: "having a shell company is not a criminal offense, no matter where in the world the company is located."

In the data set, which is said to be 260 gigabytes in size, 130,000 tax evaders from more than 170 countries are listed, according to reports by the "SZ" and NDR. Among them are oligarchs, arms dealers and financial jugglers. Hundreds of german traps are said to be included in the documents.

The federal government therefore advocated that the participating media pass on their information to the tax investigators. A spokesman for the ministry of finance in berlin stressed that it is expected that "the relevant documents will be passed on to the relevant tax authorities in the states so that they can start their investigations without delay.

How much black money is actually involved in the documents was initially left open. However, the sums that are smuggled past the tax authorities via tax havens appear to be gigantic: according to an estimate by the german tax union, german tax evaders alone were allowed to have siphoned off around 400 billion euros.

According to a study from last year, the global figure is 21 billion US dollars (17 billion euros). The affected countries would lose tax revenues of at least 190 billion dollars (148 billion euros) per year, according to calculations by the international association "tax justice network".

The extensive data package is said to have been sent last year to the international consortium of investigative journalists (ICIJ) in washington. According to the "suddeutsche zeitung", the information was subsequently examined and analyzed for months together with the NDR and other international media.

In connection with secretive business in tax havens, various banks are also mentioned, including the deutsche bank. A spokesman for the institute stressed, however, services in southeast asia were offered primarily to customers from the region. The basis is also "that the customers fully regulate their tax affairs and thereby comply with all tax laws and reporting obligations".

SPD chancellor candidate peer steinbruck called for stronger political action: "we should introduce tougher penalties for those financial institutions that invite or participate in tax fraud."Green and left accuse the federal government of inactivity. The finance ministry, on the other hand, referred to "a large number of new or improved tax agreements with third countries," such as singapore. The eu commission stressed in brussel that it had already proposed 30 mmeasures against tax evasion in december. This also includes a "black list" to make it easier to identify tax havens.


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