The tax authorities of North Rhine-Westphalia recently paid 3,5 million Euro for a CD with stolen Swiss bank details of around 1,000 suspected German tax invaders. It was not the first purchase of a CD from a whistleblower which revealed money moved by German citizens to a tax haven. In 2008, a CD with bank accounts of tax invaders hiding undeclared assets in Lichtenstein even convicted the former CEO of Deutsche Post, Klaus Zumwinkel. Since then German tax authorities bought several tax CDs which lead to an ongoing public discussion: Is it ethically correct for the German tax authorities to buy stolen CDs to convict potential tax evaders?
Evading taxes is without any doubt a crime. But is it a crime to steal bank details, and is it a crime to buy these details? In contrast to Germany stealing bank data in Switzerland and Lichtenstein is violating the banking secrecy laws which can even be punished by imprisonment. For an employee of a bank it is a tough decision to blow the whistle, disclose bank secrets and earn a lot of money (in the current case 3,5 million Euro) but face prosecution in their native country or disappear to another country to avoid penalty. On the other side, in 2010 the Federal Constitutional Court permitted German tax authorities to use these CDs in criminal prosecutions. So unlike the whistleblower, the involved investigators are not breaking the law in their native country. But in Switzerland, the CD-buying has led to arrest warrants against the involved German officials. Even though buying a tax CD is not a crime in Germany, critics argue that a democratic constitutional state should not encourage others to break laws in order to earn money.
From the perspective of the tax authorities, the money paid for a stolen CD is well-invested money. The first CD bought for 5 million Euro led to over 200 million Euro of penalty and back payments. But it is not just the payments on revealed hidden money. The purchase of tax CDs also set other...
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