Deutsche Post Gets New Boss Amid Growing Tax Evasion Scandal | Business| Economy and finance news from a German perspective | DW | 18.02.2008
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Deutsche Post Gets New Boss Amid Growing Tax Evasion Scandal

Deutsche Post appointed a new chief executive, Frank Appel, to replace disgraced chief Klaus Zumwinkel at Deutsche Post as police raided the homes of wealthy Germans amid a growing tax evasion probe.

Frank Appel

Appel, 46, takes over the reins of Europe's largest postal service

The supervisory board of Deutsche Post on Monday picked Frank Appel to lead the mail and global logistics company after his predecessor resigned last week amid charges of evading taxes to the tune of one million euros.

Appel, 46, has been a member of the management board since 2002, and is currently in charge of the group's international mail and logistics division. Appel, a long-time protégé of Zumwinkel, said he would continue the policies of his former boss.

Deutsche Post delivers mail in Germany and is a major worldwide player in the express delivery and logistical services business through its DHL unit.

Rolling raids on wealthy Germans

The announcement came as police swooped on the homes of wealthy Germans Monday, using a list of tax evaders bought for millions of euros by German spies from an informer.

The rolling raids are set to continue throughout the week, with mixed teams of police, revenue officers and prosecutors knocking on doors at dawn at the homes of the rich. Officials declined to name any of the evaders.

Klaus Zumwinkel

Zumwinkel, center, being led away from his house by prosecutors

The inquiry went public last Thursday with a dawn raid on the home of celebrity business executive Klaus Zumwinkel, chief of Deutsche Post for the past 18 years.

Prosecutors claim Zumwinkel evaded one million euros ($1.5 million) in personal tax by creating a revocable trust for his money in Liechtenstein.

Gap between haves and have-nots

Capping a long-running debate about income inequality, the proof that the well-paid have also cheated on taxes has stirred fury in the German media and political class.

Josef Ackermann, the Swiss-born chief executive of Deutsche Bank, told mass circulation newspaper Bild on Monday, "People who do not set a good example cannot lead."

"All of us in business are going to have to try again to regain the confidence in us that has been lost."

A tax prosecution team from Bochum in the west of Germany fanned out across the country, seeking evidence of Liechtenstein trusts at the homes of the rich. News media reported sightings of the snvestigators in five cities.

Two discreet German banks catering to the very affluent admitted they had been visited by the police.

The Hauck & Aufhaeuser bank said its Munich office was paid a visit by investigators. Another institution, Privatbank Metzler, said investigators dropped in at its offices in Frankfurt and Munich.

Row over spy disc

The finance ministry has said Germany paid for information that led to the probe, and media reported the BND intelligence service gave an informant about 4.2 million euros ($6.14 million) for a compact disk containing Liechtenstein bank data on more than 1,000 tax-evasion suspects.

German Finance Ministry spokesman Torsten Albig said the federal government paid "in the order of 4 to 5 million euros" for the data spirited out of the Alpine tax haven of Liechtenstein.

Opposition parliamentarians have however demanded an inquiry into why Berlin paid a data thief. Chancellor Angela Merkel told foreign journalists in Berlin that matters would be explained this week in the parliamentary committee with oversight over the BND foreign intelligence service.

Finance Minister Peer Steinbrueck defended the payment, saying the informant contacted the BND, not vice versa.

"I would like to see the outcry through the nation if we had not done anything about it," he said. The tax authorities had reimbursed the BND for the payment.


Liechtenstein has long been a tax haven for the world's wealthy

The tiny principality of Liechtenstein, between Austria and Switzerland, has a thriving financial-services industry which helps rich Germans invest their money.

Merkel, who is set to meet Wednesday with Liechtenstein Prime Minister Otmar Hasler, said she would press for an end to Liechtenstein's practice of keeping investors' affairs secret from other nations' tax investigators.

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