Saturday, 18 December 2010
Ten facts on tiny principality of Liechtenstein
1. The Principality of Liechtenstein is one of only two countries in the world that are doubly landlocked — that is surrounded by other countries that are also landlocked — which means that its inhabitants have to cross at least two borders before reaching the coast. The other such country is Uzbekistan.
2. At 61.7 square miles, Liechtenstein is the smallest German-speaking country in the world, with an estimated population of 35,000.
3. It is ruled by the Liechtenstein family, which took its name from Castle Liechtenstein, in Lower Austria, which it possessed from at least 1140.
4. The family effectively created the state to which they gave their name in 1719 by buying two adjacent plots of land — the County of Vaduz and the Lordship of Schellenberg — from another feudal dynasty and persuading the Holy Roman Emperor Charles VI to lend the new state their own name.
5. The current ruler is Prince Hans-Adam II. He delegated day-to-day authority for running the country to his son Prince Alois in 2003. He also introduced in 2003 a new constitution, which actually increased the family’s control of the state. A national referendum showed two thirds of the population in favour.
6. Since 1868, Liechtenstein has had no army, because national security is guaranteed by Switzerland and it maintains a policy of neutrality.
7. Prince Hans-Adam II is the world’s sixth-richest leader, with an estimated wealth of $5 billion (£3 billion) according to Forbes.
8. In recent decades, the once poor country has turned itself into one with one of the highest per capita incomes in the world, thanks to a policy of bank secrecy and low tax, which has encouraged rich individuals to stash money in its banks.
9. Huge pressure was placed on the country to end bank secrecy earlier this year after the German authorities began investigating Prince Max von und zu Liechtenstein, son of Hans-Adam II, and chief executive of the principality’s largest bank, LGT, for withholding millions of euros in tax. The Germans obtained the information after buying incriminating information on accounts from a former employee of LGT. It also passed on details to other nations, including Britain, and it is believed that the UK taxman is investigating about 100 British residents for tax evasion in Liechtenstein as a result.
10 In 2007, Liechtenstein was placed on a blacklist of unco-operative tax havens identified by the Paris-based Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development along with Monaco and Andorra. It was removed from the list in May this year after Prince Alois promised to co-operate.
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