Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Trouble in the Liechtenstein case

We have received an email from a German citizen whom we know well, who has alerted us to a new story in the FT Deutschland newspaper, a sister publication of the FT. An abominable Google translation is available here; but our e-mailer has distilled some essential points:

"It seems as if the public prosecutor in Bochum, Ms Margrit Lichtinghagen, who is leading the investigations against Liechtenstein tax evasion, is to be removed.

This article casts light on corrput practices inside the public prosecutor's office and describes how two of their leaders have a record of being seen playing tennis with mayor parties who have been sued. In the last days, her bosses have made shadowy allegations against her of 'improper behaviour' and 'furtiveness' and are said to have fabricated a 64-page dossier on her; there is little substance to these accusations.

Now Lichtinghagen, it seems, is going to become a judge in a juvenile court and it is not clear how (and by whom) the Liechtenstein cases will be prosecuted."

(This is rather reminiscent, at least on the surface, of some of the things that happened to the tenacious investigating magistrate Eva Joly when she came up against powerful interests in the Elf Affair case in Paris.) Our correspondent continues:

"Probably, the FTD comments, this will result in all the processes being distributed to local prosecution departments with an easy-to-guess outcome: because of a lack of expertise of the local prosecutors and the sheer complexity involved in the LIE-cases, smart and specialist lawyers of the evaders will quickly reach an agreement without lawsuit. People from within the prosecutor's office say that Lichtinghagen was the only person capable of leading the complex litigations and fear a catastrophe for the case that Lichtinghagen must really go."


And:

"Please help us to get rid of corruption in Germany (as an aside - see this latest example) - it seems to be very deeply entrenched in the Bochum prosecution department. Please make this public; please contact whoever you know in Germany about this and try to reach central government.

We need an independent anti-corruption task force to screen this agency.

If the Liechtenstein processes are going to end in talk (and monetary fines only), then this would send out a terrible message to the HNWIs (High-Net-Worth Individuals) around the globe: "even in Germany and with all the evidence they can possibly long for, they are unable to put us into prison".

Update: we've been alerted to some action that's being organised in Germany to protest against this: for those German-speakers: click here.

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