German opposition politicians have blasted plans by the Swiss federal prosecutor to file charges against German tax officials for obtaining lists of accounts belonging to possible tax-evaders.
Members of the Social Democrats (SPD) voiced outrage at the Swiss arrest warrant for three civil servants alleged to have bought the data belonging to the bank Credit Suisse.
The Swiss federal prosecutor's office said on Saturday it had sought legal assistance from German authorities in an investigation into the theft of the information.
"When dictators and mass murderers have been forced out of their homelands, they have often put their stolen assets in Switzerland," Joachim Poss, deputy SPD parliamentary leader told the German daily newspaper Die Welt. Poss added that Switzerland should "criminalize" those people instead.
The SPD parliamentary whip Thomas Opperman told the mass-circulation daily Bild that the inspectors - who had been trying to root out the accounts of potential tax evaders - should receive a government honor rather than be arrested.
"They have upheld the rule of law by fighting money laundering and tax evasion," he said.
Swiss Federal Prosecutor Michael Lauber confirmed on Saturday that authorities wanted three tax investigators from the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia arrested on suspicion of being accessories to economic espionage and for breaking Swiss bank secrecy laws.
German efforts to scrutinize the hidden bank accounts of its citizens have strained relations with Switzerland. Recent attempts to establish an accord between the countries on the matter have floundered.
Switzerlandis investigating how tax inspectors bought a data disc in February 2010 with the names of Germans possibly holding secret Swiss bank accounts.
Germans are required to declare all income, regardless of where it was earned.
rc/ncy (dpa, AFP)