為什麼德國支付數百萬贖金 為被盜銀行資料
Why Germany Is Paying Millions in Ransom For Stolen Bank Data
By TRISTANA MOORE / BERLIN Tristana Moore / Berlin –

Wed Feb 3, 1:35 pm ET

The announcement may have caused some super-rich Germans to tremble in their designer shoes. On Tuesday, German Finance Minister Wolfgang SchaÜble said the government has agreed to buy a computer CD from an anonymous informant that contains the stolen bank details of up to 1,500 people suspected of evading German taxes by stashing their money away in Swiss bank accounts. The decision wasn't made easily: the deal prompted a week-long bout of soul-searching in Germany, with critics accusing the government of playing into the hands of a common criminal. It also caused a spat with Switzerland, which has stood firmly behind its banking secrecy laws and is keen to protect its shining image in the financial world. (See "Global Business Tips: Germany.")
這一公佈可能已引致一些超富德國人在他們的名家設計靚鞋內顫抖。在週二,德國財政部長朔伊布勒表示,政府已同意從匿名線人購買一電腦CD,它內儲達 1500人的被盜銀行詳細資料,他們被懷疑存錢在瑞士銀行帳戶去逃避德國稅收。該決定並不容易:交易在德國激起為期一周的自我反省較量,有批評指責政府被玩弄於一個普通罪犯的手中,它亦造成了與瑞士的爭吵,她為支持她的銀行保密法而企得很硬,亦致力保護其在金融世界的光輝形象。 (看“全球商務須知:德國。”)
According to media reports, the informant first approached the tax authorities in the German state of North Rhine Westphalia with the deal last month. The individual provided a sample of the data, which authorities are now checking to determine if it's genuine. Details of the proposed deal were then leaked to the media, plunging Chancellor Angela Merkel's government into a very public moral dilemma. Should it pay the $3.5 million the informant was reported to have demanded - which the media said could help the country recoup some $140 million in lost tax revenue - or turn down the offer because it amounted to rewarding criminal behavior? (See a TIME photoessay on East Germany.)
據媒體報導,線人在上個月首先接觸德國北萊茵州威斯特伐利亞的稅務機關進行交易,那人提供一個數據的樣本,當局現正檢查以確定它是否真版。建議交易的詳細情况隨後被洩露給媒體,致使總理默克爾的政府進入一個非常公開的道德困境,它應否支付據報要求的350萬美元給線人 - 媒體說這可以幫助國家收回約 1.4億元的稅收損失 - 或拒絕該提議,因為這等於獎勵犯罪行為? (看一篇TIME的 有關東德的影像文章。)
The head of the parliamentary legal affairs committee, Siegfried Kauder, a member of Merkel's Christian Democratic Union party, urged her to do the latter, saying the data may not even be admissible in court because of the manner in which it was obtained. Other officials and experts warned that the government would be sending the wrong message by striking such a shady deal. "The German rule of law obliges the state to tax people equally, but the state should also not deal with criminals," Moris Lehner, a professor of international law at Munich's Ludwig Maximilian University, tells TIME. "The informant acquired the data through a criminal act and the government has to weigh up its obligations very carefully." Peter Schaar, the German data protection commissioner, added that it could also "encourage other people to sell data and this would lead to a black market for personal information." (See the effects overprinting money had in prewar Germany.)

Switzerland was also vehemently opposed to the deal. "Here we have a new form of bank robbery," Swiss lawmaker Pirmin Bischof said in an interview with Germany's Deutschlandfunk radio on Tuesday. "Before, you had to go to the bank and get hold of the money with a weapon. Today you can do it electronically by stealing data." Swiss Finance Minister Hans-Rudolf Merz went a step further, saying that his country would refuse to help the German authorities on tax issues involving the stolen data. Lehner says, however, that this may just be bluster on Merz's part. "Under the double taxation agreement between Germany and Switzerland, the Swiss authorities are obliged to help their German counterparts to investigate tax fraud if there is a suspicion of a criminal act," he says. (See pictures of the dangers of printing money in Germany.)

Despite the arguments of opponents, the deal did have plenty of support in Germany. Tax evasion is a major problem in the country, costing the government around $40 billion a year, according to Lehner. German opposition parties supported buying the CD if it helped uncover the identities of any suspected tax dodgers. "It's a scandal that [the authorities] pursue every parking offender but not those people who evade paying up to $300 million in taxes," Sigmar Gabriel, the chairman of the Social Democratic Party (SPD) told the paper Hamburger Abendblatt. The German police union was equally adamant that moral concerns should be pushed aside. "The police work with criminals on a daily basis - we have paid informers who help us uncover drug trafficking or other crimes," Konrad Freiberg, the head of the union, tells TIME. "Particularly with tax fraud you'd never be able to get at these people otherwise."

It also wouldn't be the first time the German government did something like this. Two years ago, Germany paid an informant $6.3 million to obtain stolen bank details for several hundred members of the LGT banking group who were suspected of evading taxes by putting their money in bank accounts in Liechtenstein. That deal reportedly helped the government recover $250 million in lost revenue by the end of last year. One of the suspects, Klaus Zumwinkel, the former head of Deutsche Post, was also convicted of tax evasion and received a two-year suspended prison sentence and a fine of $1.4 million. "We can't do the opposite now of what we did two years ago," SchaÜble said in an interview with ZDF public television on Monday night.
(Read: "The Year 2010 Bug Strikes German Bank Cards.")

Merkel agreed. However distasteful Germany's leader may have found the deal, she said Monday that the end, in this case, may justify the means. "Just like any reasonable person I am in favour of punishing tax evasion," she told reporters in Berlin. "In order to do this everything should be done to get hold of this data."