Eva Joly, the recently elected EU deputy and former anti-corruption prosecutor, denounced French Bank BNP’s offshore financial activities which have enabled African leaders to amass unreported oil-money in tax havens. In a Le Monde article published today Joly said, “We would like to know how much BNP earned from its two subsidiaries in Cyprus, 27 subsidiaries in Luxembourg and 21 subsidiaries in the Cayman Islands.” BNP Paribas, one of the largest European banks, has 189 subsidiaries located in tax havens, more than any other French firm.
Joly’s statements follow a law passed by the French Parliament in June which makes it compulsory for French banks to publish information regarding their operations and financial activities in tax havens that do not cooperate with international standards of information exchange. Next month a list of the non- cooperative countries will be published in France. This list is expected to include approximately 30 countries.
The history of the Republic of Cameroon, an oil-rich Central African country, embodies the typical post-decolonization cycle. Paul Biya, President of the Republic of Cameroon came to power in 1982 with the tacit support of the international community. In 2008, he managed to modify Cameroon’s constitution and is now quasi president for life. According to Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index, Paul Biya’s regime is one of the most corrupt in the world. It even received the title of “world’s most corrupt country” in 1998 and 1999.
Cameroon has long been on the radar of most development aid organizations and donor countries. In January 2006, in order to keep the financial support of the international community, President Paul Biya created the National Commission to fight Corruption (CONAC) headed by Paul Tessa, one of his former ministers. So far the CONAC’s sole accomplishment as been the launch in 2008 of a great “Sparrowhawk” anti-bribery operation. Since the start of this operation, a list of sixty presumably corrupt personalities (including ministers, generals and businessman) has been established among which 15 individuals have since been judged and heavily condemned; a way for Paul Biya to kill two birds with one stone: organize a good public relations campaign and imprison potential political challengers. Operation “Sparrow hawk” received the support of the international community including the FBI.
Since January 1996, article 56 of the revised Cameroon constitution calls on the “President of the Republic, the Prime Minister and members of Government to declare their assets at the beginning and the end of their mandate.” In 2006 a law established a precise list of persons concerned by article 56 but it has never been promulgated.
GFI Cited in French Study of Corruption, Developing Countries
Global Financial Integrity, June 25, 2009
The French non-profit organization, Catholic Committee against Hunger and for Development (CCFD), released a new report Wednesday on government corruption and stolen assets from developing countries. The report, “Biens mal acquis” or “Ill-Gotten Gains” extensively cites the work of Global Financial Integrity (GFI) and its director, Raymond Baker, on illicit financial flows and their impact on developing countries.
The report presents a very precise inventory of the assets stolen by 30 heads of state during the past 50 years; ranging from such notorious figures as Saddam Hussein to Ferdinand Marcos. The report updates an earlier edition released in 2007. The 2007 CCFD report was used extensively in a famous 2007 judicial case brought by Transparency International and several French NGOs against three African heads of states’ accused of hiding assets in France.
The report’s recommendations to the French government and the European Union closely echo much of GFIs own program. These recommendations include the dismantling of all fiscal judicial havens and the obligation of judicial cooperation, the creation of a strong European judicial system regarding financial matters and a modification of international accounting norms in order to obtain country by country reporting from every multinational corporation.