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German state buys more tax data in secret account crackdown

BERLIN (Reuters) - The German state of Rhineland-Palatinate, run by the opposition Social Democrats (SPD) and Greens, said on Tuesday it had bought a CD with data on secret bank accounts which could bring in half a billion euros in tax revenues.

It was unclear who sold the information but in the past, unidentified whistleblowers have provided similar data to German states, including North Rhine-Westphalia.

"(The data) is authentic and of excellent quality," said state Finance Minister Carsten Kuehl, adding there were 40,000 sets of data which his state had bought for 4 million euros.

"We expect the information to yield tax revenues of around 500 million euros across Germany," said Kuehl, adding officials had been in touch with investigators.

He said the data proved the high level of criminal energy that went into tax evasion.

Der Spiegel magazine reported that the information was on Germans with accounts in Switzerland and that it affected more than 10,000 customers.

News of the CD purchase comes amid a burgeoning debate in Europe about tax evasion, following the recent leak of thousands of holders of secret bank accounts and the belated admission by a disgraced former French budget minister that he held a secret foreign account.

In response, French President Francois Hollande has launched a campaign to crack down on tax evasion, the EU's five largest economies have agreed to deepen cooperation in the area and Luxembourg has dropped its opposition to sharing bank data with its partners.

(Reporting by Gernot Heller, writing by Madeline Chambers, editing by Noah Barkin)

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