Germany's Schaeuble welcomes data on global tax evasion

  • 5 April 2013
  • From the section Europe
Grand Cayman - file pic
Image caption Grand Cayman: Caribbean tax havens are under EU scrutiny

The German finance minister has praised a media investigation exposing secret offshore banking, saying he wants more joint EU action against tax evasion.

Wolfgang Schaeuble said: "I'm glad about this report, which will increase the pressure." But getting global action against tax evasion was "endlessly laborious" work, he added.

Tax dodges used by politicians, rich executives and others were exposed in an international media investigation.

Germans were among those exposed.

The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) co-ordinated the examination of secret files from more than 120,000 offshore companies and trusts. An anonymous source leaked 2.5m secret files.

The revelations cover 30 years of offshore banking activity, involving more than 170 countries and territories.

Speaking on German Deutschlandfunk radio, Mr Schaeuble said there were "unbelievably complex schemes" for avoiding taxes. "It's another question whether they are all illegal," he said, adding that much of the activity was a "grey area".

He said Germany would push for the EU to improve information exchanges about tax-dodging. "I hope the resistance to it will get weaker now," he said.

German pressure

One of Mr Schaeuble's ministerial colleagues, Steffen Kampeter, said Germany needed to co-ordinate action against tax evaders at the federal level, proposing a new agency like the FBI in the US to do so. Currently such action is managed by German regional authorities.

Germany has put pressure on Swiss and Luxembourg banks to divulge information about Germans who are avoiding taxes.

In the Cypriot banking crisis Germany was also one of the sharpest critics of the offshore model pursued by Cyprus, which attracted many rich Russians to the island and enabled them to avoid paying taxes at home.

The ICIJ investigation embarrassed President Francois Hollande's Socialists in France, because it emerged that his former party treasurer Jean-Jacques Augier had invested in two Cayman Islands offshore companies.

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