European ATTAC campaign against tax havens in Liechtenstein, 2008

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Timing
Time Period:  
February
2008
to
March
2008
Location and Goals
Country: 
Liechtenstein
Location City/State/Province: 
Vaduz
Goals: 
"ATTAC is an international organization involved in the alter-globalization movement. We oppose neo-liberal globalization and develop social, ecological, and democratic alternatives so as to guarantee fundamental rights for all. Specifically, we fight for the regulation of financial markets, the closure of tax havens, the introduction of global taxes to finance global public goods, the cancellation of the debt of developing countries, fair trade, and the implementation of limits to free trade and capital flows."

-From the organization's webpage

 

Liechtenstein is a small country between Switzerland and Austria with a population of approximately 35,000. After World War II, Liechtenstein’s economy was in shambles. The government, a constitutional monarchy currently under the rule of Prince Hans-Adam II, implemented low corporate taxes in order to draw companies into the country. As a result, Liechtenstein currently has the second highest gross domestic product per capita in the world and has more registered companies than citizens. However, the international community has identified Liechtenstein as a tax haven, where wealthy foreigners may hide their money in secret bank accounts in order to evade taxes in their own countries. These practices of tax evasion result in the loss of over 100 billion Euros each year across the European Union.

In February of 2008, a tax evasion scandal broke out in Germany after a former Liechtenstein bank employee sold bank account information to the German government. The German government discovered that over 1,000 wealthy German citizens had hidden money in secret Liechtenstein bank accounts. With the ensuing widespread media coverage of the scandal, ATTAC (Association for the Taxation of financial Transactions and Aid to Citizens), an organization that seeks global economic justice, turned its attention to Liechtenstein. European ATTAC members from outside of Liechtenstein published opinion pieces, gave radio interviews, and even appeared on several television shows.

On February 22, ATTAC, along with the Tax Justice Network, presented the “ATTAC Action Plan to Close Down Tax Havens” during a press conference. The plan called for international cooperation to track down tax evaders and close tax havens, as well as sanctions against uncooperative countries. Over 9,000 people signed an online petition in support of the plan.

Members of the ATTAC groups in Germany, France, Austria, and Switzerland organized a small demonstration in the Liechtenstein capital of Vaduz, set to take place on March 1. Approximately 30 ATTAC members participated. Some demonstrators dressed as tax-robber barons and wealthy tax evaders and then pretended to live on inflatable island swimming props, which represented the tax havens. The other demonstrators held signs and shouted in German, “Tax havens dry out!”

In response to this demonstration, approximately 100 Liechtensteiners spontaneously rallied in support of the government, booing the ATTAC members and telling them to go home. Despite this opposition, ATTAC considered this event successful because of the widespread media attention that it drew within Liechtenstein and neighboring countries.

ATTAC and the Tax Justice Network are still active today. However, they have not organized further direct action in Liechtenstein; they seek instead to petition the G20 and European Union to implement widespread change. As of 2009, under pressure from foreign countries (especially Germany and Britain), Liechtenstein has increased its banking transparency, providing some information to the foreign governments that seek tax evaders.

Research Notes
Sources: 
"AFP: Liechtenstein Offers Olive Branch as Tax Scandal Spirals." Google News. 1 Mar. 2008. Web. 25 Feb. 2011. <http://afp.google.com/article/ALeqM5ibKFRES6q7doRhf5qLXxOmyVBnzw>.

"Attac | Facebook." Weblog post. Facebook. Web. 25 Feb. 2011. <http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=2317736558>.

"Attac Protestiert in Liechtenstein Gegen Steueroasen." Attac.de. 28 Feb. 2008. Web. 25 Feb. 2011. <http://www.attac.de/aktuell/neuigkeiten/detailansicht/datum////attac-protestiert-in-liechtenstein-gegen-steueroasen-1/?no_cache=1&cHash=e54d36e039f895abe7d381d96bf56015>.

"Attac Protestiert in Liechtenstein Gegen Steueroasen: Globalisierungskritiker Aus Zwölf Ländern Legen Erklärung Vor." Attac.de. 1 Mar. 2008. Web. 25 Feb. 2011. <http://www.attac.de/aktuell/presse/detailansicht/datum/2008/03/01/attac-protestiert-in-liechtenstein-gegen-steueroasen/?cHash=682b058f99e8a54cc9b4f01bcdde3503>.

Donahue, Patrick, and Karin Matussek. "Liechtenstein Prince Criticizes German Tax `Attack' (Update5) - Bloomberg." Bloomberg - Business & Financial News, Breaking News Headlines. 19 Feb. 2008. Web. 25 Feb. 2011. <http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=newsarchive&sid=a0lGSOcwrv18&refer=germany>.

Geigold, Sven. "Lessons from Liechtenstein." Tax Justice Focus 4 (7 Apr. 2008): 12-13. Tax Justice Network. 7 Apr. 2008. Web. 25 Feb. 2011. <www.taxjustice.net/cms/upload/pdf/TJF_4-1_Doha.pdf>.

Geigold, Sven, “Putting Effective Pressure on Tax Havens: Some Lessons from the Campaign Against Tax Havens in Germany.” Web. 25 Feb. 2011. < http://www.sven-geigold.de/wp-content/uploads/2010/02/putting_effective_pressure_on_tax_havens_march_2008.pdf>

Kennedy, Stephanie. "Liechtenstein No Longer a Tax Haven for the Rich - ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)." ABC News. 12 Aug. 2009. Web. 25 Feb. 2011. <http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2009/08/12/2653689.htm>.

"Massive Tax Evasion Scandal in Germany: The Liechtenstein Connection - SPIEGEL ONLINE - News - International." SPIEGEL ONLINE - Nachrichten. 16 Feb. 2008. Web. 25 Feb. 2011. <http://www.spiegel.de/international/business/0,1518,535768,00.html>.

"Tax Justice Demonstration In Vaduz, Fl." World News. Web. 25 Feb. 2011. <http://wn.com/Tax_Justice_Demonstration_in_Vaduz,_FL>.

Traynor, Ian. "Germany Urges Crackdown on Tax Havens | Money | The Guardian." Guardian.co.uk. 5 Mar. 2008. Web. 25 Feb. 2011. <http://www.guardian.co.uk/money/2008/mar/05/capitalgainstax.moneyinvestments>.

Name of researcher, and date dd/mm/yyyy: 
Jennifer Trinh, 25/02/2011