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21 May 2024

Tax informer in Australia, claims paper

By Agencies


A Liechtenstein man at the centre of investigations into a global tax evasion scandal is believed to be in Australia, an Australian paper reported on Saturday, but a German weekly said he had returned to Europe.

Heinrich Kieber, 42, is being investigated by Liechtenstein authorities for industrial espionage after he sold secret banking records of individuals to German authorities looking into tax evasion involving accounts in the tiny principality's secretive banking system.

Following the German move, Britain and the United States have also joined the search for tax evaders, while last month Australian and New Zealand tax authorities conducted raids and audits on rich residents suspected of dodging tax through Liechtenstein bank accounts.

The Australian newspaper said Kieber, who had lived and studied in Australia in the early 1990s, was in the northern state of Queensland last April, when the trail went cold. 

He had sent an email from the Queensland city of Cairns to a contact in Europe last February, describing life in Australia as good, the paper said, citing extracts of the email that had been read to it.

It said private investigators are convinced he is still in the country and may have been offered a form of protection by authorities. It said Australian authorities declined to discuss his case.

German magazine Focus said Kieber had returned to Europe and had told Germany's intelligence service he feared for his life.

"You're putting my life at danger," the magazine quoted Kieber as telling the BND.

The weekly said that Kieber was asking for a new identity to possibly start a new life in South America because the BND had not managed to keep his identity secret.

Liechtenstein's prosecutor said in a statement last month that the investigation into Kieber concerns "suspicion of spying out business secrets for the benefit of a foreign party." 

In 2003, Kieber was convicted of fraud after stealing data from Liechtenstein bank LGT, owned by the country's ruling family, where he worked until November 2002.    

The bank has said it is almost certain that the client data that was stolen is the same as that at the source of Germany's tax probe.  (Reuters)