By Dow Jones Business News, June 14, 2013, 10:55:00 AM EDT
ZURICH–U.S. authorities are pressing ahead with efforts to pry information out of Liechtenstein that could come back to haunt Americans hiding money in tax havens.
The Justice Department sought help in April from the Principality of Liechtenstein Tax Authority in gathering a trove of information from firms there that advise clients, according to a letter reviewed by The Wall Street Journal.
A person familiar with the matter said U.S. officials have sent additional letters to Liechtenstein.
U.S. officials indicated that they want information about Americans who might have dodged taxes by using Liechtenstein foundations to hold offshore accounts. “U.S. prosecutors have a strong suspicion that a great many U.S. taxpayers who used Liechtenstein structures, or are associated with Liechtenstein structures as beneficiaries, have not been compliant with U.S. law,” the Justice Department said.
Liechtenstein has relayed the request to various financial firms in recent weeks, according to a person familiar with the matter.
The names of the firms, known as fiduciaries, couldn’t be determined. Katja Gey, the director of Liechtenstein’sOffice for International Financial Affairs, didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. A Justice Department spokeswoman couldn’t be immediately reached for comment.
The move marks an expansion of the ongoing global tax-evasion crackdown. In addition to the U.S. government’s prod of Liechtenstein, neighboring Switzerland is weighing an agreement with the U.S. that could erode the Swiss nation’s legendary bank secrecy.
The Swiss Parliament is considering a proposal for many of the country’s roughly 300 banks to start handing over data about past dealings with American clients to the Justice Department. Some lawmakers and advocacy groups have criticized the measure as a heavy-handed infringement of Switzerland’s sovereignty.
In the letter to Liechtenstein, the Justice Department said documents it is seeking could establish the amount of funds kept by Americans in undeclared accounts in countries such as Switzerland but managed by foundations in Liechtenstein.
U.S. Pressing Liechtenstein on Tax Havens