Swiss arrest warrants issued over the weekend for German tax inspectors

Swiss arrest warrants issued over the weekend for German tax inspectors have sparked heated debate in Berlin over the ongoing tax evasion conflict with Bern. German commentators on Monday discuss how renewed tensions could endanger a preventative deal between the two nations.

Tensions over tax evasion have flared up between Germany and Switzerland once again with the weekend announcement of Swiss arrest warrants for German tax inspectors accused of industrial espionage. The spying charges have opposition politicians so riled up that a tax evasion prevention deal currently under negotiation between the neighboring countries may now be at risk.

While both countries have signalled their willingness to sign the deal, they still need parliamentary approval — which is now at risk after Swiss prosecutors on Saturday issued arrest warrants for three German tax inspectors from the state of North Rhine-Westphalia. The officials had federal approval to buy stolen bank information leaked from Credit Suisse in 2010, a move that triggered a wave of tax declarations by Germans seeking to avoid tax evasion charges.

The pending deal would require Switzerland to impose taxes on accounts held by Germans, in addition to handing out fines for undeclared assets, but would spare the country from having to reveal the identities of its valuable wealthy banking customers. With this, Berlin hopes to collect unpaid taxes on an estimated €130 billion to €180 billion socked away in the Alpine haven by its citizens.

But on Sunday, talks on the agreement reportedly broke down. The negotiations were aimed at concerns voiced by German states governed by the center-left Social Democrats. The party is in a position to block any deal in the Bundesrat, Germany’s upper legislative chamber.

The arrest warrants seem to have further complicated the delicate issue. North Rhine-Westphalia governor Hannelore Kraft, an SPD member who is among those who could ultimately torpedo the deal in the Bundesrat, called the move by Swiss authorities an outrage on Sunday. “The NRW tax investigators were simply doing their job tracking down German tax dodgers who stashed undeclared money in Swiss banks,” she said. Her party and the environmentalist Greens have both resisted the agreement, saying it doesn’t go far enough despite concessions from the Swiss.

SPD member and North Rhine-Westphalia Finance Minister Norbert Walter-Borjans told daily Berliner Zeitung that the arrest warrants were a “massive intimidation attempt,” adding that his state would not give up its efforts to fight tax evasion.


Spiegel has the full article

You may also like...