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Jul
22

OECD Common Reporting Standard Not Crafted with Developing Countries in Mind

Financial Transparency Coalition

WASHINGTON, D.C. - On Monday, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) released detailed guidelines on the common reporting standard for automatic exchange of financial information. The plan inches closer to implementation of a global standard but continues to keep developing countries looking in from the outside.

Rather than offer a period of non-reciprocity, where developing countries could simply receive financial data, the only mention of non-reciprocity agreements is catered to tax havens.

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Jul
17

Can the Vatican Bank be a Moral Leader in Transparency?

Ann Hollingshead

In its list of Most Influential People this year, TIME magazine called Pope Francis a “moral leader in word and deed.” In the commentary on this accolade, President Obama said this of the pope: “His Holiness has moved us with his message of inclusion, especially for the poor, the marginalized and the outcast. But it has been his deeds, his bearing, the gestures at once simple and profound — embracing the sick, ministering to the homeless, washing the feet of young prisoners — that have inspired us all.”

When it comes to poverty and inequality, Pope Francis has truly been both a champion and a moral leader. The pope does not just speak about the injustice of inequality, the travesty of poverty, or the moral imperative to bring economic development and inclusion to the developing world. Over his lifetime, he has emphatically observed these values in his own life, forsaking many of the luxuries typically afforded to men in his positions. He has also consistently urged Christians and Priests to do the same; that is, to practice what you preach.

By extension, we might expect that the bishop of Rome should govern his state, Vatican City, in a way that is consistent with these principles. With Pope Francis’ record in mind—and understanding the deep connection between financial transparency and poverty worldwide—we might expect that the Vatican should be a beacon of transparency in an otherwise opaque world.

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Jul
17

New Thomson Reuters Foundation Media Program to Investigate Illicit Finance, Tax Abuse

Clark Gascoigne

This post originally appeared on the blog of Global Financial Integrity, a member of the FTC.

Thomson Reuters Foundation Seeks Applications from African Media for Illicit Finance Training and Assistance Program by July 28th

6198428500_15e8067a95_zAre you an ambitious journalist in Africa with an interest in probing illicit finance, money laundering, and tax related abuses? Or, perhaps, you represent an outstanding, independent media organization based in Africa with a desire and reputation for exposing financial crime and corruption?

Either way, the Thomson Reuters Foundation is launching a new three-year program assisting African media on the reporting of illicit finance and tax abuse, and they are hoping that you will apply.

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Jul
16

Why Did the Chicken Cross the Channel? To get to a tax haven

Christian Freymeyer

Last week, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) announced that it had received troves of data on a number of wealthy UK individuals that held money in an offshore bank in the Channel Isles, a British crown dependency and well known tax haven.

The ICIJ, along with The Guardian, dissected the documents, and released a number of stories outlining some of their findings. One of the more interesting tax arrangements uncovered seems to be that of the owners of Nando’s, the worldwide restaurant chain famous for its chicken dishes.

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Jul
16

Transparent company ownership: how does the UK government’s proposed action live up to its rhetoric?

Rosie Sharpe and Robert Palmer

This article originally appeared on the blog of Global Witness, a coordinating member of the FTC.

7508035710_8c9a4ab55b_zLate last year, David Cameron announced that the UK would put the names of the people who own and control British companies into the public domain – something that we at Global Witness have long been campaigning for, alongside other NGOs such as ONE and Christian Aid. Such transparency is important because it’s well known that people who want to hide dirty money use the anonymity provided by companies to do so. There are plenty of examples of British companies being abused in this way.

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Jul
15

Crypto-currency: Can cyber havens be regulated?

Financial Transparency Coalition

By: Priscilla Lin, FTC Spring Intern 2014

Priscilla researched an evolving trend in illicit flows: using the electronic currency Bitcoin to obscure the identities behind financial transactions. Here is what she learned about the practice:

Bitcoin can be sent from anywhere to anywhere at a very low cost, while simultaneously keeping a user’s identity hidden. This all sounds convenient for online payments, but without proper regulations, the use of crypto-currency could easily lead to tax evasion.

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Bitcoin was launched in 2009, as the world’s first crypto-currency. Satoshi Nakamoto, a pseudonym for the unknown person or group of people responsible, created the revolutionary currency. One key feature of Bitcoin is its decentralized nature, which doesn’t require regulators or bankers, resulting in low transaction costs. However, this also poses severe challenges for revenue authorities trying to trace and tax the digital currency.

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Jul
15

Building a Movement

Savior Mwambwa and Sarah Bracht

20140628_093151In late June, we met with members of the Tax Justice Network Africa (TJN-A) and the Africa International Trade Union Confederation (Africa ITUC) for a training and strategy session in Naivasha, a town northwest of Nairobi. The goal of the event was to bring people together to discuss and analyze the problem of illicit financial flows and the lack of transparency, particularly within the extractive sector.

It wasn’t long after we left the city limits of Nairobi that the landscape changed dramatically, quickly shifting from shopping malls and apartment complexes to dirt roads and shacks. The drive, which should only take about an hour, took twice as long because the roads aren’t build to sufficiently accommodate the regular traffic from tourists, vacationers, and large trucks.

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Jul
11

Switzerland’s Two Faces of Secrecy

Ann Hollingshead

For about five years now, nations around the world have called on Switzerland to change its secret ways. Over these years Switzerland’s banks, which hold nearly one-third of the estimated $7 trillion in global wealth kept offshore, have borne much of the brunt of the U.S. Department of Justice’s campaign against banks facilitating tax evasion by American citizens. Other nations, such as India, have also followed suit. And although Switzerland has attempted to cultivate an image of international cooperation – the reality of Swiss banking secrecy has been more of the same.

For the purposes of outward appearances, at least, Switzerland has caved to some of the international pressure. After much debate in 2009, Switzerland surprised the world when, at the last moment, it decided not to step in and forbid banking giant UBS from handing over the names of tax-evading Americans to the Internal Revenue Service. In 2012 Switzerland began making overtures toward cooperation when it agreed to make anonymous advance payments to German tax authorities for undeclared money. In 2013 Switzerland joined the OECD’s Multilateral Convention on Mutual Administrative Assistance on Tax Matters. Under this agreement, participants must aid each other in tax collection efforts, and the agreement also includes some provisions on automatic exchange of financial information.

While these public agreements and appearances represent, in many ways, a new voice for this nation, for all practical purposes they do not represent a shift from the status quo.

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Jul
9

New Bank Leaks to be Dissected by ICIJ and The Guardian

Christian Freymeyer

3409619940_376807207e_zThe International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) and The Guardian have received troves of documents exposing the offshore banking activities of thousands of wealthy individuals. The information, which was leaked to the ICIJ, highlights the activities of a major private bank in the Channel Islands, a British crown dependency.

According to ICIJ, the list of clients includes “donors to the British government, which has been outspoken against tax havens, and some of the most prominent people in British life.”

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Jul
3

As the World Cup Ends, BRICS Summit to Kick Off in Brazil

Christian Freymeyer

While Brazil is the only member of the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, Indian, China, South Africa) bloc still alive in this year’s World Cup, members from all five nations will reconvene on the Brazilian town of Fortaleza, just days after the tournament’s conclusion.

The 2013 BRICS Summit, held in South Africa, reaffirmed the group’s commitment to economic development and stability. Ahead of this year’s summit, which will be held July 15-17, the FTC offered a submission to the group on how and why financial transparency issues are vital to BRICS’ agenda.

You can read the full submission here.

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Jul
3

FTC’s 2nd Quarter Newsletter is here!

Christian Freymeyer

In March, we released the first edition of the newly-reinstated FTC Newsletter. The aim of the document is to help inform journalists, allied organizations, governments, and the general public on the work we’re doing, as well as the progress made on our policy issues.

We’ve now released the second edition, which covers our work from April to June.

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Jul
2

As Italy takes over EU presidency, what will happen to beneficial ownership registers?

Christian Freymeyer

In the process to revise the EU Anti-Money Laundering Directive (AMLD), European Parliament voted overwhelmingly to approve the creation of public registers of information on the beneficial owners (real owners) of companies, trusts, and other legal entities in the EU. This would greatly aid the fight against illicit financial flows produced from corruption, trafficking, tax evasion, and other activities, which are often perpetrated with the help of anonymous companies with hidden ownership.

However, the European Parliament’s input is only one piece of the puzzle.

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Latest Press Releases

OECD Common Reporting Standard Not Crafted with Developing Countries in Mind

Financial Transparency Coalition · July 22, 2014

On Monday, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) released detailed guidelines on the common reporting standard for automatic exchange of ...

GFI Assails Disheartening U.S.-BNP Paribas Settlement

Global Financial Integrity · July 1, 2014

WASHINGTON, DC – Global Financial Integrity (GFI) expressed skepticism today that the settlement reached between ...

G8 Has Yet to Live Up To Its Promises on Tax and Transparency

Financial Transparency Coalition · June 18, 2014

G8 countries have yet to live up to the important commitments they made on tax and transparency at their Northern Ireland summit ...