FRANKFURT, April 22 German financial markets
watchdog Bafin will scrutinise German lenders' offshore wealth
management businesses, it said on Monday, as a global clampdown
on tax evasion intensifies.
The bank regulator's announcement followed word that Bayern
Munich football chief Uli Hoeness is facing a tax evasion
investigation involving a Swiss bank account.
"Our fact-finding effort is still at the conception stage,"
a Bafin spokesman said on Monday, declining to give detail on
the likely content or timeline for the watchdog's enquiry.
Bafin's head of banking supervision, Raimund Roeseler, said
earlier in a newspaper interview that the watchdog would start
collecting data from banks about their offshore activities.
"The banks will have to explain to us exactly what they are
doing there and with whom they are conducting business,"
Roeseler told Sueddeutsche Zeitung in the interview published on
Regulators around the world are seeking to root out tax
evasion against a background of ballooning government debt.
The Group of 20 advanced and emerging economies on Friday
endorsed automatic exchange of tax data among nations, calling
it the expected new standard for how governments can help each
other fight cross-border tax cheating.
Bafin has the power to conduct special inquiries at banks'
offshore affiliates to check they are complying with the law,
although data protection laws meant banks would not have to
report on individual clients, Roeseler told the newspaper.
The watchdog has a range of powers to deal with any banks
found breaking the rules, from issuing warnings to forcing
executives to step down, depending on the gravity of the
Roeseler said regulators would look at wealth management
operations but did not identify individual banks or locations.
Data from the Bundesbank, which works jointly with Bafin on
banking supervision, shows that German banks had about 152
billion euros ($199 billion) in claims on offshore banking
centres as of February.
The Bundesbank's list of 22 offshore centres comprises:
Guernsey, Jersey, the Isle of Man, Liberia, Bermuda, Panama,
Anguilla, St. Kitts and Nevis, the Bahamas, Antigua and Barbuda,
Cayman Islands, British Virgin Islands, Barbados, Montserrat,
Aruba, Curacao, St. Martin, Lebanon, Bahrain, Singapore, Hong
Kong and Vanuatu.
At the end of 2012, the asset and wealth management
divisions of Germany's two biggest lenders, Deutsche Bank
and Commerzbank, had 944 billion euros and
51 billion euros in assets under management, respectively.
HVB's private banking division had 25 billion
euros in assets under management, while DZ Privatbank, the
wealth management unit of Germany's cooperative banks, had 13.5
billion euros in assets under management.
DZ Bank was not immediately available to comment and the
other banks declined comment.
($1 = 0.7644 euros)
(Reporting by Jonathan Gould and Edward Taylor; Editing by Mark