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Liechtenstein's LGT Group Sells Trust Business

by Phillip Morton, Investors Offshore.com

11 March 2009


LGT Bank, the Liechtenstein institution at the eye of an international tax evasion storm which swept across Europe and the wider world last year, has decided to get out of the trust and fiduciary services market.

On March 10, LGT Group, which is owned by Liechtenstein's royal family, announced that it was selling LGT Treuhand AG, its trust and foundations business, to First Advisory Group, a provider of fiduciary services in Liechtenstein. The sale will have retroactive effect from January 1, 2009. LGT Swiss Trust Company (STC) will be taken over by LSP Trust Ltd, which was founded by former STC employees, also with retroactive effect from the start of the year.

Only last November, LGT Group announced that it would cease to offer trust and fiduciary services that were not compliant with the tax legislation in its clients’ countries of origin. But the bank acknowledged that the sale of the business was a further possible option, and given the tide of political and public opinion turning against banking secrecy in particular and offshore jurisdictions in general, it has evidently come to the conclusion that selling trust services could be more trouble than it is worth.

"Going forward LGT Group will no longer provide fiduciary and asset structuring services, nor will it continue to offer trusts or foundations," the bank confirmed in its announcement. The firm added that the sale would allow it to focus on its core business of local banking and asset management services in its European markets.

Angelika Moosleithner, co-owner of First Advisory Group and member of the Executive Board stated: "FA has recognized the signs of the times. We will continue to offer globally oriented wealth and estate planning services in line with all relevant legal and regulatory requirements, and lead our company into an international future. This is in every sense also in the best interests of Liechtenstein as a whole."

Iwan J. Ackerman, First Advisory's co-owner and CEO added: "The age of outright tax avoidance is over. In a modern trust and fiduciary company, we must not only take international, political and tax developments into consideration, but we also have to constantly adjust our service offering to these developments and to proactively optimize sustainable solutions for our clients. The stronger, larger and more international we are, the better equipped we are to do this."

The Alpine jurisdiction has come under intense pressure from Germany and other European governments - and latterly the new administration in the United States - to dilute its banking secrecy laws after it emerged last year that many wealthy citizens of these countries had kept undeclared assets in Liechtenstein accounts and trusts out of legal reach of foreign tax and other government authorities.

Earlier this month, US Senator Carl Levin introduced a beefed-up version of his 'Stop Tax Haven Abuse Act' which will, among other aims, authorize the US Treasury Department to develop a list of 'offshore secrecy' jurisdictions and impose tougher reporting requirements on US taxpayers with dealings in these listed jurisdictions. The bill would also give the US Treasury authority to take "special measures" against foreign jurisdictions and financial institutions that impede US tax enforcement. It is understood that the legislation has the support of President Barack Obama, who backed similar proposals whilst sitting in the Senate prior to his election as President.

A comprehensive report in our Intelligence Report series examining offshore confidentiality is available in the Lowtax Library at http://www.lowtaxlibrary.com/asp/subs_reports.asp and a description of the report can be seen at http://www.lowtaxlibrary.com/asp/description_report1.asp

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