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On The Trail Of The Fugitive Who Blew The Cover On Global Tax Evasion

After outing some high-profile tax evaders by selling Liechtenstein bank account information to investigators, Heinrich Kieber disappeared. Recently, he turned up in Australia, only to disappear again.

Liechtenstein police mug shot of Heinrich Kieber (2008)
Liechtenstein police mug shot of Heinrich Kieber (2008)
Uwe Ritzer

Heinrich Kieber travelled to Australia for the first time in the early 1990s. He brought his Jeep with him, and spent several months exploring the island continent. Then he reported the vehicle stolen, and got an insurance payout of 62,000 Australian dollars. He'd actually sold the car. Kieber was taking flying lessons, and one day without a word to anyone he disappeared. His Australian landlady, Margret Thompson, was left owed several thousand dollars in back rent.

Some 20 years later, again in Australia, and Kieber's done it again – disappeared. This time, his cover was blown. The now 46-year-old Kieber is one of the most wanted men on the planet. When he worked for the Liechtensteiner Fürstenbank LGT, he secretly copied the account information of some 5,800 clients from around the world, many of whom were hiding money in Liechtenstein to evade taxes. Among the repercussions: in February 2008, along with hundreds of less high-profile LGT clients in Germany, former Deutsche Post boss Klaus Zumwinkel was publicly outed for tax evasion.

Since the data theft, Heinrich Kieber is State Enemy Number One in his native Liechtenstein. The tiny, discreet principality was blown open as a tax oasis thanks to Kieber's divulgences. Under pressure from abroad, Liechtenstein was forced to make some concessions regarding its rigid bank secrecy rules. An international arrest warrant has been issued against Kieber, and some say there's a $10 million bounty on his head. However, according to Kieber, the secret services of several countries including Germany created a new identity for him and also protect him.

High-priced data

The theft made Kieber a rich man. He sold his information for millions to the countries from which the LGT customers on his list hailed. German authorities paid him around 4 million euros. In Australia, 20 investors who had some 110 million euros in Liechtenstein accounts came to light – which is why the matter of the insurance fraud dating back to 1992, for which there was an arrest warrant out against Kieber, was brushed aside.

Insiders have suspected for some time that Kieber – described as something of a loner, crafty, fickle, refined and egocentric – could be back living Down Under. Australia has always fascinated him. And even long before the data theft, he was restless, moving around a lot. This time, though, it wasn't his own choice: reporters from the Australian Financial Review sniffed him out.

All he left behind was a business card with a squiggly symbol on it and the name: Daniel Wolf. He told people at his favorite "Crema Espresso" café in Gold Coast, a town on the east coast of Australia about an hour from Brisbane, that he was an Austrian financier in early retirement.

Kieber apparently moved to Gold Coast in August 2010, which was when he published a book on the Internet about stealing the bank account data. Early last month, Kieber gave evidence to the Australian Federal Court at a closed hearing, speaking freely about the rules of the game in the Liechtenstein tax haven.

In Australia, he apparently lived alone but was very sociable. He was fun to be with, even if he was a little cocky and talked an awful lot, café habitués told reporters. They were less enthusiastic about the time Daniel Wolf, alias Heinrich Kieber, supposedly invited a woman to lunch, but then made her pay because he said he only had a couple of dollars on him. When the reporters started trailing him, he sent them an e-mail saying he wasn't Heinrich Kieber.

And that's the last anyone's see or heard from him.

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How WeChat Is Helping Bhutan's Disappearing Languages Find A New Voice

Phd candidate Tashi Dema, from the University of New England, discusses how social media apps, particularly WeChat, are helping to preserve local Bhutanese languages without a written alphabet. Dema argues that preservation of these languages has far-reaching benefits for the small Himalayan country's rich culture and tradition.

A monk in red performing while a sillouhet of a monk is being illuminated by their phone.

Monk performing while a sillouheted monk is on their phone

Source: Caterina Sanders/Unsplash
Tashi Dema

THIMPHU — Dechen, 40, grew up in Thimphu, the capital city of Bhutan. Her native language was Mangdip, also known as Nyenkha, as her parents are originally from central Bhutan. She went to schools in the city, where the curriculum was predominantly taught in Dzongkha, the national language, and English.

In Dechen’s house, everyone spoke Dzongkha. She only spoke her mother tongue when she had guests from her village, who could not understand Dzongkha and during her occasional visits to her village nestled in the mountains. Her mother tongue knowledge was limited.

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However, things have now changed.

With 90% of Bhutanese people using social media and social media penetrating all remotes areas in Bhutan, Dechen’s relatives in remote villages are connected on WeChat.

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