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German media react to 'Offshore Leaks'

German media and business have found plenty to react to in the "Offshore Leaks" data published Thursday. Internationally, government reactions have been cautious after media published the list of alleged tax evaders.

HANDOUT - Blick auf einen Strand auf den British Virgin Islands, aufgenommen am 28.08.2011. Foto: Jost Van Dyke (Achtung: Nur zur redaktionellen Verwendung bei Nennung der Quelle) (zu dpa Medienberichte enttarnen geheime Geschäfte in Steueroasen vom 04.04.2013)

Prominent figures and media outlets across the country wasted no time speaking about German institutions' roles in the "Offshore Leaks" data published Thursday.

Speaking to the Westdeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung on Friday, the Association of German Banks denied that financial institutions shared responsibility for the alleged tax evasion, blaming the account holder themselves. "First in line are the individuals and the organizations that invest their money in tax oases," said the association's president, Andreas Schmitz.

Names uncovered in "Offshore Leaks" included politicians, business leaders and their spouses. Media outlets from 47 countries participated in the project, including Süddeutsche Zeitung and Norddeutscher Rundfunk, a public broadcaster.

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"Tax asylums are not God's creations, but those of finance capitalism; the palm trees and white beaches are deceptive," the daily Süddeutsche Zeitung wrote in an editorial Thursday. "This idyllic is not a necessary condition for a tax oasis, but it is a welcoming camouflage for dirty business."

Researchers worldwide spent months examining data from two companies that specialize in setting up offshore accounts, which was handed over to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) in Washington by an anonymous source last year. The 260 gigabytes of data included about 2.5 million documents containing the names of 130,000 alleged tax cheats from 170 countries.

Following the release of the report, the European Commission called on EU nations to tighten financial regulations following the news of alleged widespread tax dodging.

Politicians top list

Among the alleged tax cheats named in "Offshore Leaks," was Jacques Augier, who managed the finances for Francois Hollande's 2012 campaign. Earlier this week, the French president's former budget minister, Jerome Cahuzac, confessed to hiding money in a Swiss bank account after facing similar allegations.

The oldest daughter of a former Philippines dictator and the current president of Azerbaijan also topped the list.

Despite their exposure, Britain's Guardian on Thursday reminded readers that having an offshore account was itself not a crime.

"It is not suggested that any of those listed here have behaved unlawfully," the newspaper wrote, referring to the international figures it had named in its profiles of "leading secret account holders."

"Offshore entities can be held legitimately: The only aspect those listed below have in common is that they have used a jurisdiction which provides them with secrecy."

mkg/hc (AFP, dpa)

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