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Purchase Of Bank Data Disc Divides German States

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The heated debate in Germany regarding the purchase of bank data discs has intensified, as Baden-Württemberg and Bayern have become the next federal states to be offered separate information on alleged tax evaders.

While Bayern’s Chief Minister Horst Seehofer has confirmed that he is in favour of purchasing the disc, provided that the data can be obtained by legal means, in Stuttgart, the Baden-Württemberg coalition government remains bitterly divided.

Sharing Seehofer’s view, Baden-Württemberg’s Finance Minister Willi Stächele is eager to purchase the data disc for EUR500,000. Thie disc was offered recently to state tax investigators by an informant, and contains the names of around 1,700 Germans believed to have evaded tax.

However, adamant that no deals should be concluded with crooks in order to generate additional funds for state finances, Baden-Württemberg’s Justice Minister and Deputy Prime Minister, Ulrich Goll, remains deeply sceptical, and has announced his intention to oppose the purchase if it transpires that the data has reached the finance ministry by illegal means.

Germany’s Police Union, DPolG, is also eager to purchase the disc. Referring to the case of North Rhine-Westphalia, Federal Chairman Rainer Wendt explained that the decision of general principle had already been taken. Both the federal and state government had agreed to purchase the disc after careful legal examination of the matter, he emphasized. Consequently, if some federal states opt to protect tax evaders, while others choose to put them behind bars, this will send out a damaging signal, he continued.

Following discussions with the German government, North Rhine-Westphalian tax investigators are to begin negotiations regarding the EUR2.5m purchase of a stolen data disc, containing the names of around 1,500 Germans thought to hold illegal bank accounts in Switzerland.

Despite the recent data disc revelations, Germany’s Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble has insisted that Swiss-German relations remain good, and that no diplomatic or political issues have arisen as a result.