Germany reels over fat cat tax probe

BERLIN, Feb 17, 2008 (AFP) – Germany braced Sunday for more fallout from the worst tax evasion scandal in its history, exposed by a mysterious informant who reportedly took a five-million-euro award and now says he fears for his life. The German government said it paid the unnamed whistle-blower to hand over Liechtenstein bank details on a multi-billion-euro tax affair, pointing to widespread financial wrongdoing among Germany’s monied class.

One company chief resigned Friday while hundreds of wealthy Germans are reportedly under investigation, prompting union leaders and political officials to demand more accountability in the business community.

The LGT bank group of Liechtenstein, which has built its reputation on banking secrecy, said German authorities were working from a list of its clients stolen by an employee in 2002.

Finance Minister Peer Steinbrueck approved the payment to the informant, his office said in a statement, without confirming media reports that five million euros (7.3 million dollars) was handed over.

The ministry has also urged tax evaders to come forward, saying it could result in a lighter sentence.

Media reports said the informant fears he could be silenced by one of the powerful bos