The Paradise Papers revealed several big German companies and at least 1,000 German private clients incl. an ex Chancellor, parked their money in tax havens. Siemens, Sixt, Bayer are among the companies listed in the leaked documents. Just when everybody was convinced by the year-long campaign of Berlin that only Greeks were tax-evaders…
Ι have been brainwashed for years that Greeks and Greeks only were the sole tax-evaders in the European Union. Ever since I started running this blog and website, so-called “outraged taxpayers” mainly from Germany, The Netherlands, Slovakia and also some from tax-evaders’ darling Luxembourg have been leaving fierce comments on KeepTalkingGreece including KTG’s social media accounts, urging Greeks “to pay their debts back!” And this phrase was the most polite one.
For seven consecutive years we have been hearing Germany and its satellite states in Europe to complain about tax-evasion in Greece.
At the same time, conservative lawmakers of German coalition from CDU and Bavaria’s CSUdid their best to turn Greece and Greeks into modern times ‘scapegoats.” CDU/CSU politicians and conservative German media were zealously bowed over the assembly belt manufacturing the one populist proposal after the other on how Greeks could pay back their debts to foreign lenders.
We heard the weirdest and most offending proposals like handing over Greek islands to lenders or lease – and why not? – also sell the Acropolis. Some clowns of German politicians claimed Greece should pay pension and wages in Drachmas, others proposed that German tourists get €500 tax refund as debt compensation. The top clown in Bavaria’s circus, the Federal state’s Finance Minister, urged Greece to use its Gold reserves and real estate as collateral. The only thing we did not hear was to hand them out our teeth gold. Apparently they knew we had lost our teeth gold trying to bite on a dry rusk and could not replace it as we could not afford a dentist visit in times of economic crisis and unemployment.
For years, we have been also hearing the headmaster of provincial school Berlin, Wolfgang Schaeuble, claiming he could not pass this new bailout or that debt relief or the X concession to Greece through the Bundesstag (Parliament) because the lawmakers had respect to the German taxpayers and “did not want to waste their money.”
German politicians used and misused the German taxpayers as foot soldiers against Greece, while german-made tax-evasion was in full progress.
Thanks to Paradise Papers, we hear now that big German companies, among others, state companies like the Deutsche Post and the Deutsche Bank have been parking their money in offshore companies in tax havens. They may have done so legally, to cover up illegal business deals, or simply to benefit from tax avoidance schemes.
Also, private companies like Sixt, Siemens, Allianz insurance, Bavaria-based pharma Bayer, hotel chain Meininger are among those using the services of the Appleby law firm to exploit any tax-relevant loopholes.
Among the 1,000 German clients of law firm Appleby is also former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder (SPD) who had contacted law firm Appleby about “certain procedural issues concerning legislation on the Virgin Islands.” According to the Süddeutsche Zeitung newspaper, he was an independent member on the supervisory board of the Russian-British energy firm TNK-BP back in 2009, an offshore company based in the Virgin Islands. Information on who pulled the strings between BP and Russia’s Alfa group had been known for a long time, bot no one in Schröder’s Social Democratic Party seemed to bother.
When German conservatives were lashing out at Greece and Greeks, Merkel’s coalition partner SPD was knitting socks for the foot soldiers in a quiet and dark backroom.
“The documents make a mention of roughly 1,000 German clients, beneficiaries or people otherwise involved in tax avoidance schemes, among them politicians, billionaires, entrepreneurs, aristocrats and investors. Among them mentioned are the name of billionaire Paul Gauselmann, the head of Germany’s largest gambling company Merkur gambling halls, the billionaire family of Engelhorns in Bavaria, fashion billionaire Friedrich Knapp. “They didn’t seek to earn money with the help of Appleby, but they were out to avoid taxes to the tune of millions of euros,” as the Süddeutsche Zeitung suggested.
Being involved in offshore deals does not automatically mean being involved in any legal wrongdoing. What has become clear, however, is that many loopholes remain in the law that help people and companies cover up their finances.
According to Deutsche Welle, the head of German tax union DSTG, Thomas Eigenthaler, said the revelations from the Paradise Papers are just “the tip of the iceberg.” He reckons that the German state loses between 50 billion and 70 billion euros ($58 billion and $81 billion) as a result of illegal financial dealings. Some much like one Greek bailout….
The difference between tax-evasion in Germany and Greece has always been that in Germany tax evasion moves in other, really big astronomic levels. However, also small entrepreneurs will gladly offer you a price discount if you agree to not get a receipt. Just like in Greece. I have lived long enough in both countries to know what I am talking about.
Compare the tax-evasion committed by a Greek fruit seller in the open market with the tax-evasion or tax offshore benefits of Bayer or Siemens. There is no comparison at all, not even if one considers the debts of both countries analogically, or dares to compare big-scale tax-evasion in both countries.
Where is the outcry of German taxpayers now?
“Tax havens are the motor for global inequality,” notes Sueddeutsche Zeitung.
Yeap. Taxes are for the small people, for the pensioner of 600-euro per month, the part-time worker on 500-euro gross, if at all. Therefore the next lenders’ prerequisite in Greece is to broaden the tax basis and burden with taxes also people living below the poverty line with less than 6,000euro annual income.
PS I have no time to check on tax-evasion and the Netherlands but Sueddeutsche Zeitung has among other Paradise Papers revelations also a report about how Nike and The Netherlands bounce off the German state. And the Paradise Papers revelations are only in the beginning.