LGT Group Quits Tax-Shelter Business

Liechtenstein's largest bank said it is abandoning its tradition-rich trust business, seeking to distance itself from accusations from officials in Germany and the U.S. that it helped rich foreigners evade taxes, The Wall Street Journal reported. The move by LGT Group, which is owned by the tiny Alpine principality's royal family, marks a move away from a mainstay of Liechtenstein banking: the formation of secretive foundations as tax shelters. European tax investigators say it is nearly impossible to obtain information about the activities or beneficial owners of Liechtenstein trusts. The principality is the latest European tax haven to bend to an international outcry over tax evasion. Swiss banks also are facing international pressure to increase transparency. Liechtenstein is facing strong pressure from the European Union to increase transparency in its financial system. Tax officials in many EU countries are just as concerned about the problems of finding out about secret Liechtenstein trusts as they are about Liechtenstein's bank secrecy, Mr. Frommelt said. Liechtenstein government spokesman Max Hohenberg said Tuesday Liechtenstein has signed an agreement with the U.S. allowing full legal assistance with U.S. tax-evasion investigations beginning in January 2010. Read more. (Subscription required.)