UPDATE 2-German state ready to buy stolen bank data

* North Rhine-Westphalia says is obliged to hunt tax evaders
* German finance ministry supports the state’s decision
* FinMin-There will be no “Ice Age” in ties with Swiss
(Adds German finance minister, paragraphs 8-10)

BERLIN, Feb 4 (BestGrowthStock) – Germany’s most populous state
said on Thursday it was ready to acquire Swiss bank data
belonging to potential cross-border tax cheats, raising the
stakes in a controversial saga that has provoked outrage in
Switzerland.

The state government in North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) said a
legal examination had determined that acquiring the stolen data
would not be illegal.

“Therefore, we will try to get hold of the data on offer,”
said NRW Finance Minister Helmut Linssen. “The state is obliged
to pursue any suspicion of tax evasion. If it didn’t do this,
it would be aiding a crime.”

German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble sent shivers
through the large Swiss private banking industry (Read more about the banking industry recovery.) this week when
he said Berlin was prepared to pay for the data belonging to
potential tax dodgers at a Swiss bank. For details, see
[ID:nLDE6101NM]

Germany’s Federal Finance Ministry issued a statement
saying it “regards the NRW Finance Ministry’s decision as right
and supports it.”

The decision provoked horror in Switzerland, where a
lawmaker likened Germany’s attempts to get hold of the
information from a whistleblower to bank robbery.

Swiss Finance Minister Hans-Rudolf Merz said on Wednesday
the Swiss would not help Germany or others hunt tax cheats on
the basis of stolen Swiss bank data, but tried to defuse the
escalating row by saying Bern would not retaliate.

Schaeuble said he had talked to Merz about the issue.

“I explained our position to him, he explained the position
of Switzerland to me and we agreed that we don’t agree on
everything,” he told Swiss television.

“But what we do agree on is our intention to find a
solution for the future,” Schaeuble said. “It won’t be easy and
it will only come step by step in a bilateral as well a
European framework so that we don’t have to have these debates
again in the future.”

Earlier, Schaeuble told Germany’s mass-selling daily Bild:
“There won’t be an Ice Age” in relations with Switzerland.

Deutsche Bank Chief Executive (DBKGn.DE: ) Josef Ackermann, a
Swiss, opposed the acquisition of the data.

“Personally, as a citizen, I am of the view that one
shouldn’t acquire stolen data from another state,” he told a
Deutsche Bank earnings news conference in Frankfurt.

German media have reported that the data on up to 1,500
possible tax evaders could lead to 100 million euros ($138.8
million) for state coffers.

Germany had already paid for stolen data in 2008 when it
purchased information stolen from Liechtenstein’s top bank LGT,
forcing the tiny principality to give up bank secrecy rules.

In an interview with Reuters earlier this week, Schaeuble
said it was the responsibility of individual German states to
decide what to do with such data. [ID:nLDE6101NM]

Stock Market News

($1=0.7207 Euro)
(Reporting by Klaus Lauer and Katie Reid, Writing by Sarah
Marsh and Paul Carrel)

UPDATE 2-German state ready to buy stolen bank data