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Switzerland seeks to arrest 3 German tax inspectors for economic espionage

Switzerland has issued arrest warrants for three German tax inspectors.

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A Credit Suisse sign is pictured in front of a branch of the Swiss bank on July 15, 2010 in Lausanne. (FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images)

Switzerland has issued arrest warrants for three German tax inspectors, the Associated Press reported. Their alleged crime: economic espionage for buying the details of German tax evaders’ Swiss bank accounts.

The three civil servants could be arrested if they enter Switzerland, according to Reuters.

"There is a concrete suspicion that specific orders from Germany were issued to use espionage to obtain information from Credit Suisse,” the Swiss attorney general said in a statement today, Reuters reported.

Germans have an estimated 150 billion Swiss francs ($200 billion) stashed in secret Swiss accounts, and the German government has gone to great lengths to catch citizens who are avoiding taxes, Reuters reported. In recent years, the German authorities have paid millions of euros to informants and whistleblowers for compact discs containing data for offshore bank accounts in Switzerland and elsewhere.

According to Reuters:

In 2010 several German states, including NRW, said they had bought compact discs containing Swiss bank data from whistleblowers as part of a drive to flush out tax evaders. That prompted thousands of Germans to declare their financial holdings to avoid risking jail sentences.

Hannelore Kraft, state governor of NRW, told the Bild am Sonntag newspaper that the arrest warrants are “an outrage,” Reuters reported. “The NRW tax investigators were simply doing their job tracking down German tax dodgers who stashed undeclared money in Swiss banks,” Kraft said.

Some German states, including Kraft’s, are blocking a deal with the Swiss to legalize German money hidden in Swiss bank accounts, the AP reported. The deal would allow the practice by having account-holders make one-time payments and pay a withholding tax on future income from assets in Switzerland.

“There are still overly big loopholes for German tax cheats,” Kraft said of the agreement, according to the AP. “That can’t be explained to honest citizens.”

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/europe/germany/120331/switzerland-arrest-warrants-german-tax-inspectors-espionage