It looks like Lichtenstein is in a spot of bother. Somebody's been selling it's secrets to the German intelligence service - and to the British and Americans, and probably to a few more lower-profile receivers of stolen property.
What secrets? Just the names and bank records of about 1400 people, most of them from Germany who've had the foresight (or the criminal instincts, depending on your point of view) to invest large amounts of untaxed income in the helpfully anonymous accounts provided by Lichtenstein's banks.
Apparently, the 5 million euros paid by the German spooks for the low-down on their tax-dodging citizens may help them recover up to 150 million euros in unpaid tax and fines. So maybe five million euros is not a such a bad investment after all. The British got a better deal; they only paid 150,000 euros for their share of the loot and the Americans have got their slice too. I expect they were not nearly such good negotiators as the British though, and Herr Heinrich Kieber (he was the thief) is probably still counting the large number of readily negotiable US dollars he extracted from the US Internal Revenue Service.
Of course, the Government of Lichtenstein is very cross especially Prince Alois, the acting head of state and one of the owners of the bank from which the information was stolen. But I bet they're not nearly so cross as Germany's Chancellor Merkel who's making dark threats about ‘cleaning-up' Lichtenstein and other dens of financial iniquity like Monaco and Andorra. They'd better watch out - last time Germany decided to clean-up, they caused an awful lot of trouble for an awful lot of people, but interestingly not for the people of Lichtenstein!
But to be honest, I can't get too excited about the prospect of large numbers of tax-avoiders (that's apparently not the same thing as ‘tax evaders') getting their just deserts. What really does annoy me though is the hypocrisy of governments who believe they can pick and choose which laws to obey! Ok, buying stolen bank records may not be in the same league as invading Iraq without UN approval, or kidnapping ‘terror suspects' and detaining them without trial and beyond the reach of international law in Guantanamo Bay. Nor is it so dishonest as giving support to the illegal division of Serbia, a sovereign state, by ignoring an unambiguous UNSC resolution and all the principles of international law, not least those set out in the Charter of the United Nations.
It's claimed that Serbia is a ‘special case' justifying ‘technically' illegal action by governments because they are recognising the ‘legitimate' aspirations of a minority of its apparently oppressed citizens who have demanded the right to self-determination. What about the right to self-determination of the Guantanamo inmates - or at least their right to due process and a fair trial? And even tax-avoiders have rights, apparently. Despite all of Ms Merkel's huffing and puffing, I'll bet she won't be pointing the finger at Switzerland and threatening to clean them up too. After all, the Germans also left the Swiss alone in 1939. I wonder why?
If it's true, that the EU wants to welcome Serbia to its peaceful and law-abiding community of nations, and if the US really does want to be best friends with a prosperous, democratic and secure Serbia, then they must work very hard to win the hearts and minds of some very disillusioned people here. If they don't already know, quite a lot of people don't like them much. They don't trust governments and those who speak for them who claim to represent the rule of law while as a matter of course, showing contempt for the principles they claim to value so much. Recently, the hypocrisy has been breathtaking! And as long as the people here are treated with such contempt by those whose moral credentials are hardly impressive, they will reject their cynical overtures and choose another course.
Here's an idea. If Ms Merkel should launch a blitzkrieg against Lichtenstein, Monaco and Andorra, there'll be a vacancy for a new tax-haven in Europe. Why can't Serbia do the job? It's easy; all you have to do is to liberalise the tax regime to attract lots of foreign money, make sure that nobody can get any personal financial information about people depositing money here and finally, make some new laws to prevent foreign tax authorities finding out what's going on. Of course, the EU would be quite upset, and the US too so maybe Serbia would have to consider remaining independent. Would that be such a bad thing?