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Image credit: Reuters/Arnd Wiegmann

Hackers target bank account in 'tax haven' Lichtenstein

Politicians and actors are reportedly among the clients of Hong Kong-owned Valartis Bank.
Reuters/Arnd Wiegmann

Tiny Lichtenstein is known for its adorable castles, alpine vistas and, until recently, being an unabashed tax haven for billionaires. However, some customers may regret stashing any funds in the principality because of a hack at the Valartis Bank, according to Bild am Sonntag (paywall). While the attackers didn't gain direct access to funds, they reportedly stole sensitive banking information. In letters obtained by the German site, they've threatened to release the data unless paid a staggering 10 percent of account balances in Bitcoin by December 7th.

Valartis Group was recently purchased by the Citychamp Watch & Jewellery Group Ltd. of Hong Kong. Until recently, the 62 square mile principality was reputed as a tax haven, but it recently eliminated its banking secrecy rules to comply with US and EU regulations, and now calls itself a "safe haven."

The unknown hackers accessed Valartis' e-banking system and stole payment order information, according to Citychamp. However, they "did not obtain details of the account statements or asset data," CFO Fong Chi Wah said in a statement. The company didn't detail exactly how the blackmailers gained access to its online systems.

Studies by the Tax Justice Network show that wealthy individuals from Russia, China and Saudi Arabia are most likely to stash cash abroad to avoid taxes. Despite strict US rules on disclosure, one US citizen dodged an order to reveal his holdings in a Lichtenstein bank by pleading the fifth amendment, Forbes reported earlier this year. Bild am Sonntag says that Valartis Bank's customers include actors, politicians and other well-heeled individuals.

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