Vontobel shares drop on Liechtenstein report

ZURICH (Reuters) - Shares in Vontobel VONN.S fell on Tuesday after a newspaper reported that a Liechtenstein unit of the Swiss private bank had become the next target in Germany's crackdown on tax evaders.

Vontobel could not immediately be reached for comment.

Markets are waiting to see if the German tax probe, which threatens to ensnare hundreds of rich and prominent people, will spread to neighboring Switzerland, whose private banking industry dwarfs that of tiny Liechtenstein.

German daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung reported on Tuesday that Vontobel Treuhand AG in Vaduz, the principality’s capital, was the second Liechtenstein bank targeted by German prosecutors.

By 0356 EST, Vontobel stock had fallen over 4 percent to 8.10 Swiss francs ($7.45), having touched 37.10 francs earlier, with traders citing the newspaper report.

“The tax scandal has finally reached us,” a trader said. “Vontobel won’t be the only house that is implicated. This is going to widen.”

German prosecutors declined to comment on the report, but said they had discovered links to a second bank in their probe into secretive accounts in Liechtenstein, which lies wedged between Austria and Switzerland.

The tax scandal began when prosecutors said they had paid for information about rich Germans hiding their money in banks in Liechtenstein, which has strict banking secrecy rules.

Newspapers widely reported the bank involved was LGT, owned by Liechtenstein’s ruling family, and that German intelligence services had paid an informant millions of euros for a compact disk with client data.

The probe into the secretive accounts widened this week, when Britain and the Netherlands joined a European effort to crack down on tax evasion.

Switzerland, where banking secrecy rules are less strict than in Liechtenstein, has so far distanced itself from the investigation, saying it is not considered a tax haven by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

Reporting by Douwe Miedema and Ruppert Pretterklieber; Editing by Catherine Evans