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Country Snapshot: Liechtenstein

Marc Jarrett
Sandwiched between Austria and Switzerland with the Swiss Franc as its national currency, Liechtenstein is a tiny micro-state in Western Europe, with a population of some 35,000 people who enjoy one of the world's highest standards of living.

It is one of the few countries in the world with more registered companies than citizens; and it has developed into a prosperous, highly industrialized, free-enterprise economy with a thriving financial services sector — thanks to its low tax/no tax reputation — with the basic personal income tax rate for those that live there being only 1.2 percent.

The secrecy enshrouding its banking sector was blown wide open last year, when disgruntled former bank employee Heinrich Kieber sparked the biggest tax evasion investigation in German history by selling a DVD containing the details of about 2,000 client accounts held with Liechtenstein's LGT Bank for a reported €4.2 million to the German authorities.

The list contained the names of many well-heeled German tax-cheats, including the former boss of Deutsche Post, many of whom then turned themselves in to pay the backdated tax, thus avoiding collecting their 'go to jail' card. Needless to say, Herr Kiebler requested a new identity.

Easy rules of incorporation have created about 75,000 PO Box holding companies that have established nominal offices in Liechtenstein. Such processes provide about 30 percent of Liechtenstein's state revenue. Liechtenstein also generates revenue from the establishment of foundations: financial entities created to increase the privacy of non-resident foreigners' financial holdings. The foundation is registered in the name of a Liechtensteiner, which our CFO rather conveniently just so happens to be.

Liechtenstein is also one of our key "termination" points, the country that surfers from countries like India need to call in order to gain access to your or our member's area. The phone company there has long understood the money-making opportunities afforded by sharing the so-called international 'settlement' it charges to other Telco's, with companies whose marketing efforts initiated the call to Liechtenstein's +423 IDD International Direct Dial access code in the first place.

Liechtenstein is the smallest German-speaking country in the world, with many speaking Swiss German which needs to be broadcast on German TV with subtitles so that the native German audience can understand it!

Since this beautiful alpine hideaway does not have an airport or even a railway station, if you ever decide to visit it you must do so by car or bus. That is, unless you are a whale, in which case you can drop in with your helicopter. Roll on that day...

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