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LGT Bank Realigns Trust Group Amid Tax Crackdown

by Phillip Morton, Investors

12 November 2008

Liechtenstein bank LGT Group has announced that it intends to refocus its trust business in the light of the recent crackdown on offshore tax evasion in Germany and the United States, although it intends to continue upholding the privacy of its international clients.

In a statement released on Monday, LGT, which is owned by Liechtenstein's royal family, said that it will focus its trust services on its core European markets of Germany, Austria and Switzerland, but will ensure that its products and services are in full compliance with local tax laws in clients' home states. For clients in other markets, the bank announced that it intends to "intensify its cooperation with external trust specialists."

The move comes with the Alpine jurisdiction under intense pressure from the German and other European governments, and lawmakers in the United States, to dilute its banking secrecy laws after it emerged earlier this year that many wealthy citizens of these countries had kept undeclared assets in Liechtenstein accounts and trusts.

Prince Max von und zu Liechtenstein, chief executive of LGT Group, commented: "The European offshore business is undergoing structural change, and our trust business must adapt to suit the new realities. There is a pressing and ongoing requirement among our clients for private sphere protection, retirement provisioning and estate planning solutions."

However, he went on to acknowledge that "trust services advisors must find solutions for clients which are compatible with tax legislation in their countries of origin."

"The measures we have announced today take these developments into consideration, and are a further decisive step in the realization of our growth strategy in wealth and asset management," he added.

Nevertheless, LGT stated that it firmly supports the Liechtenstein government's pledge to protect the privacy of those using the jurisdiction's banking and financial services.

The bank also stated that it will have an eye on growing its Asian market. LGT currently has a local business presence in Singapore, Hong Kong and Tokyo and employs about 200 people in Asia. In Singapore, LGT already has a banking license, and it expects that its business base in Hong Kong will attain bank status in the near future. It also intends to grow its asset management business by means of "organic growth and selective acquisitions."

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