The German government has urged the leading media organizations in the country to hand over data it has acquired on the widespread use of tax havens. Berlin wants to know about possible tax evasion.
Germany's Finance Ministry has called for parts of the media to hand over data passed to them about offshore accounts.
On Saturday, the weekly news magazine Focus reported that it had data distributed by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ).
The magazine said the information contained on a 2.5-inch hard drive covered some 260 milllion deposits and withdrawals on tax havens, as well as information on account balances and client advice.
Focus reported that at least 100,000 people living in or doing business in Germany were making use of the havens, amid suspicions that tax evaders are among them.
Süddeutsche Zeitung and the Hamburg-based broadcaster NDR had reported earlier in the week that hundreds of Germans were among those named in the data, which they also possessed.
German Economics Minister Philipp Rösler urged the media to pass the data on to the government, stressing that tax evasion was a "criminal act." However, the Focus management said it would not hand over confidential information because it was unwilling to break data protection legislation.
ICIJ, a Washington-based network of reporters in more than 60 countries, received the information from an anonymous source. It shared with media organizations the names of 130,000 people from 170 countries, with accounts in 10 tax havens including the British Virgin Islands, Bermuda, the Cayman Islands and the Channel Islands.
Among the financial institutions facilitating the offshore accounts was Deutsche Bank, Germany's largest bank, which responded to the revelations by saying it was up to clients to manage their own tax affairs and obey the law.
rc/mkg (AFP, dpa, Reuters)