Black money in Liechtenstein

Since the beginning of the year and retroactively no more anonymity


In the case of ex-Deutsche Post AG executive Klaus Zumwinkel, the camera team was already in place before the raid began and when he left under police escort . ready. As a result, legally be able to clarify whether one may convict tax evaders based on “first stolen and later, as it were resold as stolen goods data” at all. Since Jan. 1.2010 this question has finally been settled, because since then an agreement between Germany and Liechtenstein has been in force, which ensures almost every exchange of information in tax matters.


Hand in hand with Liechtenstein’s commitment to implementing the OECD standards, some banks have divested themselves of their own fiduciary business – but the data is by no means safer with the bank-independent fiduciaries in Liechtenstein. This is because requests for information from the criminal or tax authorities only have to comply with certain formalities.


Fishing Expeditions The name of the taxpayer may be the subject of the request for information to the Liechtenstein authorities – but it is sufficient if, for example, the name of the front company (e.g. the foundation or establishment in Liechtenstein) or only an “account number” is known, which is sufficient for identification. Conversely, information can also be demanded if German authorities become aware of telephone, letter, email or fax traffic – the Data Retention Act legalises more intensive surveillance.

Personal visits can also easily lead to suspicion through traffic enforcement. The tax offices can organise the corresponding exchange of information by default “as a form letter”, as it were. A specific statement of special reasons is usually not required for this. In particular, a request for information would only be groundless if all the data were already available to the German authority.

The tax authority in Liechtenstein therefore only carries out a formal examination of the requests for information – substantive examination could only be rudimentary. It is sufficient if the reference to a cover structure or a person is presented as a suspicion, as it were: Then the tax administration and financial houses in Liechtenstein must open their books and provide the relevant information. The requested Liechtenstein authorities shall take all appropriate measures to obtain the information requested. The taxable person concerned shall not be informed of this if this would jeopardise the purpose of the investigation. This should usually be the case.


Ways out of the tax trap?

The fact is explosive that starting from 01.01.2010 only information about then beginning tax years can be obtained, but the won information may be used also for the evaluation of past years. This retroactive effect means that even the removal of funds or the dissolution of cover constructions and clean reinvestment does not bring any security – after all, trustees and financial houses still have to keep their files for many years.

Also other dubious offers of financial houses hardly lead to the goal, because even if the fortune would be shifted for instance into a “fund with final withholding tax”, the statute of limitations of the tax evasion begins with it, but regularly never the statute of limitations of the punishable money laundering. similarly, the vast majority of offers for an investment in a life insurance policy shell would have to be judged as tax-damaging or punishable money laundering, namely as a punishable endeavour to return such black money to the legal economic cycle.


Expert advice from tax advisors of banks?

About 70 percent of the world’s literature in tax law concerns German tax rules. Foreign tax advisors regularly get a bloody nose when advising on German tax law. It is important for those affected that the statutes, articles of association or partnership agreements of “camouflage constructs” are often deficiently drafted. These deficits from the “wealth management” of the financial houses often lead to their liability. However, in individual cases there is the option of limiting the tax damage and the additional payments.

“Self-disclosures” can then not only lead to immunity from prosecution, but also limit back taxes to a fraction of the usual amount. The path to legalisation may mean claiming compensation for investment, advisory and tax losses from the financial house. For example, many clients were legally denied tax-reduced or completely tax-free financial products. It is precisely this that can mean a financial loss for which the financial house is responsible due to unnecessary taxes.

Often there is an option to legally reduce one’s tax liability economically significantly. By way of example, fault may be reduced in accordance with the case law of the European Court of Human Rights. Already from an evasion of 100,000 euros of income tax, a prison sentence is usually imposed – from 1 million euros of evasion, a suspension of probation is regularly no longer an option.

Time and again, former bank employees from the Alps or the Caribbean have “stolen” data – or international banks have disclosed customer data in violation of banking secrecy. The new state treaties on the exchange of information now legalise a de facto abolition of banking secrecy for taxpayers in Germany.


by Dr. Johannes Fiala and Dipl.-Math. Peter A. Schramm

by courtesy of (published in Mittelstandsmagazin issue 01-02/2010, page 16-17)

and (published in Spectator Dentistry issue 01/2010, page 13)

and, published on 09 November 2009 (under the headline: Liechtenstein: Celebrities and wealthy in the pillory)


And (published in Der Bauunternehmer issue 12/2009, page 13 under the headline: Black money in Liechtenstein? Retroactively no more anonymity)

and (published in Network-Karriere issue 12/2009, page 20)

and (published on 09.11.2009 under the headline:Black money in Liechtenstein – no more anonymity)

and (published in Infinity issue 12/2009, page 16-17)




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About the author

Dr. Johannes Fiala Dr. Johannes Fiala

Dr. Johannes Fiala has been working for more than 25 years as a lawyer and attorney with his own law firm in Munich. He is intensively involved in real estate, financial law, tax and insurance law. The numerous stages of his professional career enable him to provide his clients with comprehensive advice and to act as a lawyer in the event of disputes.
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