Financial Transparency Coalition » Blog http://www.financialtransparency.org Fri, 28 Nov 2014 23:37:14 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.7.5 Transparency and Post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals http://www.financialtransparency.org/2014/11/28/transparency-and-post-2015-sustainable-development-goals/ http://www.financialtransparency.org/2014/11/28/transparency-and-post-2015-sustainable-development-goals/#comments Fri, 28 Nov 2014 23:37:14 +0000 http://www.financialtransparency.org/?p=25626 leaders of the world convened at the Millennium Assembly of the United Nations. In the year 2000, at the turn of the century, the world’s leaders adopted the United Nations Millennium Declaration, a commitment to dramatically reduce poverty worldwide. All 193 member states of the United Nations and 23 organizations agreed to achieve the following set of goals:
  1. Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger;
  2. Achieve universal primary education;
  3. Promote gender equality and empower women;
  4. Reduce child mortality;
  5. Improve maternal health;
  6. Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other diseases;
  7. Ensure environmental sustainability; and
  8. Develop a global partnership for development.
The nations set a deadline for these goals: 2015. With that year only a few weeks away, it is now time to ask: how well has the world fared in trying to achieve these lofty goals?]]>
About fifteen years ago, the leaders of the world convened at the Millennium Assembly of the United Nations. In the year 2000, at the turn of the century, the world’s leaders adopted the United Nations Millennium Declaration, a commitment to dramatically reduce poverty worldwide. All 193 member states of the United Nations and 23 organizations agreed to achieve the following set of goals:

  1. Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger;
  2. Achieve universal primary education;
  3. Promote gender equality and empower women;
  4. Reduce child mortality;
  5. Improve maternal health;
  6. Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other diseases;
  7. Ensure environmental sustainability; and
  8. Develop a global partnership for development.

The nations set a deadline for these goals: 2015. With that year only a few weeks away, it is now time to ask: how well has the world fared in trying to achieve these lofty goals?

In short, progress has been mixed. Many countries, particularly those in Asia, have made tremendous progress toward achieving these goals. China reduced its number of extreme poor by 81 percent, El Salvador has reduced its child mortality rate by 87 percent, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo increased its primary school enrollment from 49 percent in 1991 to 61 percent in 2010. Among low-income countries, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, and Niger have produced dramatic improvements in nearly all of the goals.

At the same time, however, many countries—in particular in Africa—are falling short of these expectations. Many nations, for example, are not on track to halve poverty, and their overall progress on reducing hunger has been slow at best.

The recent annual UN report on Least Developed Countries explains that much of this has been the result of an insufficient focus on these nations’ productive capacities. Productive capacity is the basis for economic stability and self-sufficiency. It includes basic human and economic development capacities—such as transportation, infrastructure, and domestic finances—that promote sustainable economic development

One of the major ways to address productive capacities of these nations is domestic resource mobilization—the most sustainable source of funding in the long-term. Domestic resource mobilization depends on sustainable sources of taxation and domestic revenues. On average, Least Developed Countries (LDCs) have a ratio of tax revenues to GDP that is two to three times lower than the ratio among developed and advanced economies. Among other solutions, developing countries can mobilize domestic resources by curtailing illicit financial flows, abusive transfer pricing, and tax evasion.

As we move into the end of MDG era, the United Nations has already begun a vision for development post-2015. For the last two years, the UN’s Open Working Group has been working to develop the Sustainable Development Goals. The group’s vision will form the basis for the formal government negotiations, which will begin in January of next year. By September, we can expect to have a new global framework outlined in the Post-2015 summit.

This new global framework must include a promise by wealthier nations, particularly those with opaque financial systems who facilitate these practices, to be partners in reforming the international financial system. It should explicitly, and concretely, advance global solutions to sustainable development that emphasize domestic resource mobilization. Finally, and most importantly, it should recognize the important role of the international community in reducing illicit financial flows and tax evasion from developing countries and make concrete promises toward reform.

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The Offshore Wrapper http://www.financialtransparency.org/2014/11/26/the-offshore-wrapper/ http://www.financialtransparency.org/2014/11/26/the-offshore-wrapper/#comments Wed, 26 Nov 2014 17:16:06 +0000 http://www.financialtransparency.org/?p=25619 charged by French authorities for “illicit financial and banking practices”. This comes after the company was placed under investigation last year following the leak of the so-called Lagarde List which is said to contain the names of thousands of HSBC clients with Swiss bank accounts. According to the Guardian, the investigation has found that the HSBC private bank helped clients in an organised manner evade an astonishing $5bn in taxes. Yes $5,000,000,000. If French authorities are planning a wider inquiry into “illicit financial and banking practices” at HSBC Switzerland, they may well like to get in touch with their colleagues in Britain, or as they are known in France, Le Hog Roast.]]> Below is the latest installment of the Tax Justice Network’s weekly roundup of tax-related news, The Offshore Wrapper. The Wrapper is produced by George Turner of TJN.


HSBC – the world’s favourite illicit bank?

HSBC Switzerland has been charged by French authorities for “illicit financial and banking practices”.

This comes after the company was placed under investigation last year following the leak of the so-called Lagarde List which is said to contain the names of thousands of HSBC clients with Swiss bank accounts.

According to the Guardian, the investigation has found that the HSBC private bank helped clients in an organised manner evade an astonishing $5bn in taxes. Yes $5,000,000,000.

If French authorities are planning a wider inquiry into “illicit financial and banking practices” at HSBC Switzerland, they may well like to get in touch with their colleagues in Britain, or as they are known in France, Le Hog Roast.

Currently the UK’s Supreme Court is hearing a rather interesting case about whether a Saudi prince is required to sign a witness statement and give evidence before a court in the UK. The prince argues that Saudi royal protocol prevents him from giving evidence in court. Mr Justice Vos disagrees, so does the High Court of Appeal.

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We can see why the prince may be reluctant. The case concerns a major fall-out between a Lebanese businessman Mr Almhairat and Prince Abdulaziz bin Mishal bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, the nephew of the Saudi king.

Mr Almhairat and Prince Abdulaziz set up a company in the United Kingdom known as Fi Call, which used shell companies in the Seychelles and British Virgin Islands. (Are you paying attention, Djanogly?)

Almhairat alleges that Prince Abdulaziz used Fi Call to launder money for Hezbollah, amongst others. Prince Abdulaziz alleges Mr Almhairat stole money from Fi Call.

Mr Almhairat produced a series of transcripts of conversations and emails that should make very interesting reading for everyone. They can be found in the Judgement of Mr Justice Vos here.

In particular, the French magistrates may want to look at this passage of Mr Vos’ judgement, which is a transcript of an alleged conversation between the father of Prince Abdulaziz and Mr Almirat featuring HSBC Switzerland:

Mishal: Well, I had an idea. You know that I move huge amounts of money for people like our friends the Mubaraks. We’ve been doing this business for years. We can move money for anyone, including the Iranians, because nobody dares to challenge us.

Faisal: Yes, Your Royal Highness.

Mishal: Although I have very good connections with HSBC, we sometimes need to explain what this money flowing through our personal account and Al Shoula’s account is about. I believed that if I acquired a telecom company, we could use for money laundering and provide an explanation of the flow of cash through our accounts. When Abdulaziz told me about your company I told him to go ahead. I gave him $40 million to enter the company.

Faisal: We did receive £1 million from Your Royal Highness into the company’s account with HSBC, but the bank closed this account after the transfer.

Mishal: Yes, I know. HSBC are sensitive about my money flowing through their onshore accounts. They prefer that I keep my money in offshore accounts in Switzerland.

Faisal: I understand.

Mishal: Keep me informed about the company. Abdulaziz is in charge but, as you know, he spends a lot of time with Moroccan bitches. You’re aware that I’ve been building this huge business and I should make sure it is taken care of. Help my son and you’ll get our protection.

Faisal: I’m honored, Your Royal Highness”.

The Princes strongly deny all of the allegations against them. They claim that the transcripts are fabrications. Still, the French investigations may well want to request the court documents.

Time to give Fifa the red card?

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How long before Fifa is officially charged with bringing the game of football into disrepute?

Last week the “beautiful game’s” governing body was ridiculed after it effectively dismissed allegations of corruption in the bidding process for the 2018 and 2022 World Cup. Fifa’s “summary” of an in-depth probe was instantly disowned by Michael Garcia, the investigator, as a whitewash. Garcia demanded the matter be passed to the head of FIFA’s audit and compliance committee to review.

So how effective is Fifa’s audit and compliance committee? Well the signs aren’t good.

This week, Canover Watson, a committee member, was charged with fraud and money laundering. Canover is the FIFA vice president for Caribbean football union. He is charged with crimes in his native Cayman Islands.

Keen readers of the Wrapper will remember that Canover was arrested in August by the Cayman Islands police. As of today, he is still listed as a member of the audit committee.

Djanogly is talking…

Last week we reported on MP Jonathan Djanogly’s attempt to derail the introduction of a public register of beneficial ownership that would help uncover corruption and tax abuse.

Djanogly is a former justice minister. His £67,000 MP salary is bolstered by income he receives as a part-time consultant to international law firms and private equity (fee £1,000 an hour).

Jonathan has now spoken on the subject in a debate in Parliament last week. He raised some real non-issues. He highlights that it is sometimes difficult to know who stands behind trust structures and fears that finding this out will place an unwelcome burden on British companies.

Its perhaps churlish to ask what kind of company does not know who its beneficial owners are?

Djanogly questions whether any British companies are really involved in illicit financial flows anyway (see HSBC above).

He fears that Britain will lose out on investment from people who want to keep their identity secret. Instead they will just go somewhere else. The UK’s position as a first mover, Djanogly suggests, will mean that it will lose out.

Here at the Wrapper we agree, Britain as one of the most important financial centres in the world, should be content to let other nations, like Ukraine (see below) lead the way in financial transparency.

And relax…

To the European parliament in Brussels where the Financial Transparency Coalition and a number of related NGOs organised a discussion with MEPs, journalists and financial crime investigators about why publicly accessible registries of companies and trusts are needed to combat tax abuse and corruption.

In a packed meeting room, Vitaliy Shabunin from Ukraine’s Anticorruption Action Centre described how his country has in fact already passed laws to will introduce public registries. (Please stay awake in the back, Djanogly)

However, Ukraine’s oligarchs, says Shabunin, are not unduly concerned. They feel their vast wealth will remain hidden in Europe since they don’t think policymakers in Brussels will have the gall to introduce a similar measure.

“You know why Ukrainian oligarchs are not losing sleep over new anti-corruption rules in Ukraine? Because they are sure their shell companies in the EU will not be touched by new EU rules. Hopefully, they are wrong.”

The conclusion to this legislative process is expected early next year.

Guess where the gold is

It isn’t just banking secrecy that the Swiss provide. Priti Patnaik, a former participant on the TJN’s Illicit Finance Journalism Programme, has been on the case of Swiss gold. Read her interview with GFI on the subject here.


HSBC image used under Creative Commons licensing / Flickr User Elliot Brown

FIFA image used under Creative Commons licensing / Flickr User AsianFC

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G20 Communiqué Acknowledges Broken Financial System, But Leaves Clear Solutions on the Table http://www.financialtransparency.org/2014/11/16/g20-communique-acknowledges-broken-financial-system-but-leaves-clear-solutions-on-the-table/ http://www.financialtransparency.org/2014/11/16/g20-communique-acknowledges-broken-financial-system-but-leaves-clear-solutions-on-the-table/#comments Sun, 16 Nov 2014 05:32:25 +0000 http://www.financialtransparency.org/?p=25613 BRISBANE—With the release of the Brisbane communiqué, G20 leaders have acknowledged the cracks in our financial system, yet they haven’t acted on some common sense steps to bolster the fight against illicit financial flows. “It’s good that G20 leaders have been discussing the ravaging effects tax evasion, avoidance and money laundering have on our economies, but they seem to discuss the problem every year. There is a strong and growing consensus across experts, business leaders, and even the accounting firm Price Waterhouse Coopers on some common sense financial transparency measures,” said Porter McConnell, Manager of the Financial Transparency Coalition. “Unfortunately, G20 leaders left a number of key actions on the table.” It’s a vital step that G20 leaders have recognized the importance of collecting information on the beneficial owners of companies. But the fact that the word ‘public’ is still missing from both beneficial ownership registers and country by country reporting standards shows that G20 leaders aren’t fully committed to finding the strongest solutions.]]> G20 Communiqué Acknowledges Broken Financial System, But Leaves Clear Solutions on the Table

 To truly ensure the health of the global economy, G20 leaders need to enlist developing countries and public watchdogs as true partners

BRISBANE—With the release of the Brisbane communiqué, G20 leaders have acknowledged the cracks in our financial system, yet they haven’t acted on some common sense steps to bolster the fight against illicit financial flows.

“It’s good that G20 leaders have been discussing the ravaging effects tax evasion, avoidance and money laundering have on our economies, but they seem to discuss the problem every year. There is a strong and growing consensus across experts, business leaders, and even the accounting firm Price Waterhouse Coopers on some common sense financial transparency measures,” said Porter McConnell, Manager of the Financial Transparency Coalition. “Unfortunately, G20 leaders left a number of key actions on the table.”

It’s a vital step that G20 leaders have recognized the importance of collecting information on the beneficial owners of companies. But the fact that the word ‘public’ is still missing from both beneficial ownership registers and country by country reporting standards shows that G20 leaders aren’t fully committed to finding the strongest solutions. 

Beyond the lack of public disclosure around key aspects of the transparency agenda, the forum used to discuss these issues leaves questions around whether there will be a global solution or just a piecemeal one.

“Although the OECD has talked of giving developing countries a true seat at the table, it seems to be a bit further away than all the others,” said Pooja Rangaprasad of the Centre for Budget and Governance Accountability and the FTC. “Exclusion of developing countries from these initiatives is troubling, as they are most severely affected by illicit flows.”

Notes to Editors:

1.   Members of the FTC team will be inside the International Media Center at the G20 Summit and other experts will be available in global markets.

Christian Freymeyer, cfreymeyer@financialtransparency.org+1.410.490.6850 

Verena von Derschau, vvonderschau@financialtransparency.org+33.6.95.43.29.28

2.   The Financial Transparency Coalition is a global network of over 150 NGOs spanning five continents, 13 governments, and dozens of experts. We work to curtail illicit financial flows through the promotion of a transparent, accountable, and sustainable financial system that works for everyone.


 

Der G20 diskutiert das kaputte Finanzsystem, ignoriert aber klare Lösungen

Um wirklich für die Gesundheit der Weltwirtschaft zu sorgen, muss der G20 Entwicklungsländer und NGO’s  als echte Partner anerkennen

BRISBANE – Mit der Veröffentlichung des Brisbane-Kommuniqué, hat der G20 die Risse in unserem Finanzsystem anerkannt, doch nicht die auf gesundem Menschenverstand beruhende Schritte ergriffen, um den Kampf gegen illegale Finanzströme zu verstärken.

„Es ist gut, dass der G20 die verheerenden Auswirkungen von Steuerhinterziehungen, Steuerumgehungen und Geldwäsche auf unsere Wirtschaften besprochen hat, aber es scheint als wurde dieses Problem jedes Jahr diskutiert. Dabei gibt es einen starken und wachsenden Konsens von Experten, Firmenchefs – und sogar von Price Waterhouse Coopers- für sinnvolle Finanztransparenzmaßnahmen“, sagte Porter McConnell, Leiterin der Financial Transparency Coalition. „Leider, liess der G20 eine Reihe von Schlüsselaktionen links liegen“.

Es ist ein wichtiger Schritt, dass die G20-Leader die Bedeutung der Sammlung von Informationen über die wirtschaftlichen Eigentümer von Unternehmen anerkannt haben. Aber die Tatsache, dass das Wort „öffentlich“ immer noch fehlt, sowohl bei diesen Registern, als auch beim Country-by-country reporting, zeigt, dass G20 nicht voll auf der Suche nach der stärksten Lösung war.

Es stellt sich ausserdem die Frage, ob der G20 das richtige Forum ist um eine globale Lösung zu finden.

„Die OECD hat Entwicklungsländern einen echten Platz am Tisch zugesagt, aber das Hinzufügen von zehn zumeist Mittleren Einkommensländern zu den BEPS Diskussionen ist nicht ausreichend”, sagte Pooja Rangaprasad vom indischen Centre for Budget and Governance Accountability, ein Mitglied der FTC. „Und die Länder mit niedrigem Einkommen vom automatischen Informationsaustausch auszuschliessen, ist  beunruhigend, da sie von den illegalen Strömen am stärksten betroffen sind“.

Nachdem Deutschland die Prinzipien zu finanzieller Transparenz auf dem G20-Ebene unterzeichnet hat, muss Angela Merkel sich jetzt auch in der Europäischen Union dafür stark machen, was bisher leider nicht der Fall war.

Hinweise für Redakteure:

1. Die FTC-Team wird in Brisbane sein und steht für Interviews zur Verfügung, sowie auch Sachverständige in anderen Märkten

Christian Freymeyer (Englisch) - cfreymeyer@financialtransparency.org - +1 410 490 6850

Verena von Derschau (Deutsch) - vvonderschau@financialtransparency.org - +33 6 95 43 29 28

2. Die FTC ist ein globales Netzwerk von neun NGOs auf fünf Kontinenten, und 150 verbündeten Organismen. Wir kämpfen gegen illegale Finanzströme und für die Entstehung eines transparenten, verantwortlichen und nachhaltigen Finanzsystems für alle.


 

Le G20 reconnait les failles du système financier, mais ignore les vraies solutions

Pour assurer réellement la santé de l’économie mondiale, les dirigeants du G20 doivent considérer les pays en développement et les ONG comme de véritables partenaires

BRISBANE - Avec la sortie du communiqué de Brisbane, les dirigeants du G20 ont reconnu les fissures dans notre système financier, mais ils n’ont pas donné suite à certaines mesures de bon sens pour renforcer la lutte contre les flux financiers illicites.

« Il est bien que les dirigeants du G20 aient discuté des effets dévastateurs de la fraude et de l’évitement fiscal, et du blanchiment d’argent sur nos économies, mais ils semblent en discuter tous les ans. Il existe pourtant un consensus de plus en plus fort parmi les experts, les chefs d’entreprise -et même du cabinet Price Waterhouse Coopers- sur quelques mesures de bon sens en faveur de la transparence financière », a déclaré Porter McConnell, directeur de la Financial Transparency Coalition. « Malheureusement, les dirigeants du G20 ont ignoré bon nombre de ces solutions »

Une étape essentielle a été franchie en reconnaissant l’importance de la collecte d’informations sur les bénéficiaires véritables des entreprises. Mais le fait que le mot « public » soit encore absent pour ces registres et le reporting pays-par-pays montre que les dirigeants du G20 ne sont pas pleinement engagés à trouver la solution la plus efficace.

Au-delà de l’ordre du jour sur la transparence financière, se pose aussi la question de la légitimité du forum utilisé pour arriver à une solution globale et ne concernant pas qu’une partie du monde.

« L’OCDE a annoncé qu’elle allait donner aux pays en développement un véritable siège à la table, mais ajouter seulement une dizaine de pays, à revenu intermédiaire pour la plupart, à ses discussions sur les BEPS (profit shifting and base erosion) n’est pas suffisant », a regretté Pooja Rangaprasad du Centre for Budget and Governance Accountability en Inde, membre de la FTC. « Et l’exclusion des pays à faible revenu de l’échange automatique d’informations est troublant, car ils sont les plus gravement touchés par les flux illicites ».

La France a été l’un des leaders en Europe sur les questions de transparence financière et a encore un rôle important à jouer. La FTC regrette que la France ait été incapable de pousser un résultat plus fort au sommet de Brisbane en ce qui concerne les bénéficiaires véritables et le reporting pays-par-pays. Mais François Hollande peut encore faire entendre sa voix au sein de l’Union européenne qui a mis les questions de transparence financière à  l’ordre du jour.

Notes aux rédacteurs:

1. L’équipe FTC sera sur le terrain à Brisbane et disponible pour des interviews et des commentaires. Des experts sont disponibles dans d’autres marchés.

Christian Freymeyer (anglais) – cfreymeyer@financialtransparency.org – +1 410 490 6850

Verena von Derschau (français et allemand) – vvonderschau@financialtransparency.org – +33 6 95 43 29 28

2. La Financial Transparency Coalition est un réseau mondial de neuf ONG, implantées sur les cinq continents, et de 150 organisations alliées. Nous luttons pour la réduction des flux financiers illicites à travers la promotion d’un système financier transparent, responsable et durable au service de tous.

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This weekend, G20 leaders should roll up their sleeves and work on common sense measures to curb illicit cash http://www.financialtransparency.org/2014/11/14/this-weekend-g20-leaders-should-roll-up-their-sleeves-and-work-on-common-sense-measures-to-curb-illicit-cash/ http://www.financialtransparency.org/2014/11/14/this-weekend-g20-leaders-should-roll-up-their-sleeves-and-work-on-common-sense-measures-to-curb-illicit-cash/#comments Sat, 15 Nov 2014 00:06:28 +0000 http://www.financialtransparency.org/?p=25610 BRISBANE—While G20 leaders are poised to address many of the vehicles that are integral to allowing almost one trillion dollars to flow out of developing countries each year, political pressures should not force talks to backtrack. “The fact that so many of the world’s leaders are in one place is a rare opportunity to get things done,” said Porter McConnell, Manager of the Financial Transparency Coalition. “The summit should not be seen as a rubber stamping process; heads of state should use their 48 hours in Brisbane wisely to reach consensus on some common sense measures before them to curb illicit financial flows.” The Luxembourg Leaks investigation demonstrated that tax dodging and profit shifting aren’t just a problem for the tax havens that enable them; the affects are felt in countries all over the world.]]> BRISBANE—While G20 leaders are poised to address many of the vehicles that are integral to allowing almost one trillion dollars to flow out of developing countries each year, political pressures should not force talks to backtrack.

“The fact that so many of the world’s leaders are in one place is a rare opportunity to get things done,” said Porter McConnell, Manager of the Financial Transparency Coalition. “The summit should not be seen as a rubber stamping process; heads of state should use their 48 hours in Brisbane wisely to reach consensus on some common sense measures before them to curb illicit financial flows.”

The Luxembourg Leaks investigation demonstrated that tax dodging and profit shifting aren’t just a problem for the tax havens that enable them; the affects are felt in countries all over the world.  

“Often the most detrimental affects are felt by developing country governments that see profits magically shifted out of their jurisdictions and into tax havens,” said Savior Mwambwa, Policy and Advocacy Manager for Tax Justice Network Africa and FTC board member.

Last week, the FTC’s Chair Alvin Mosioma co-signed an open letter calling on G20 leaders to show leadership on financial transparency in Brisbane by putting “people at the heart of (their) decision”.

Meanwhile, the European Commission and European Parliament continue to move the ball forward around the creation of public registers of beneficial ownership. Just last week, Denmark became the latest country to announce plans to create a public register of the real owners of companies operating within its borders.

“G20 leaders don’t want to be on the wrong side of history,” said McConnell. “As financial transparency becomes more and more central to the strength of the global economy, G20 leaders can take concrete steps to ensure a healthy financial system.”

The Financial Transparency Coalition calls on the G20 to act on three priority areas:

  • Beneficial ownership—as political pressure mounts from some wishing to block new standards on the collection of company ownership information, G20 leaders cannot back down from setting up a system to know who really owns a company. There’s no legitimate reason for an anonymous company to exist. The G20 should endorse the creation of public registers of beneficial ownership information.
  • Automatic Information Exchange—the OECD’s common reporting standard is a step in the right direction, but many loopholes remain. Tax evaders, money launderers and corrupt politicians will continue to exploit these loopholes if given the chance. Developing countries must be fully included in the system, since some of the most egregious cases of tax evasion and financial exploitation rob them of much needed revenue. The proposed standard was created by a group of 44 rich countries, but for automatic exchange to be effective, developing countries need to play a role in how it’s designed.
  • Public Country by country reporting— The OECD and G20 effort on Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (BEPS) is aimed at making sure multinational corporations are paying taxes in the jurisdictions where profits are actually made. The BEPS process should require public country by country reporting as the common sense way to curb corporate tax evasion. A recent study carried out by Price Waterhouse Coopers for the European Commission found that public country by country reporting for financial institutions would not have a negative economic impact, and would actually boost stability. Starting in 2015, the European Union is requiring public country-by-country reporting for all financial institutions. G20 economies should follow suit.

Notes to Editors:

[1] Members of the FTC team will be inside the International Media Center at the G20 Summit and other experts will be available in global markets.

Christian Freymeyer, cfreymeyer@financialtransparency.org, +1.410.490.6850

Verena von Derschau, vvonderschau@financialtransparency.org, +33.6.95.43.29.28

[2] The Financial Transparency Coalition is a global network of over 150 NGOs spanning five continents, 13 governments, and dozens of experts. We work to curtail illicit financial flows through the promotion of a transparent, accountable, and sustainable financial system that works for everyone.

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Chair of FTC and 24 Others Draft Open Letter to G20 on Anonymous Companies http://www.financialtransparency.org/2014/11/12/chair-of-ftc-and-24-others-draft-open-letter-to-g20-on-anonymous-companies/ http://www.financialtransparency.org/2014/11/12/chair-of-ftc-and-24-others-draft-open-letter-to-g20-on-anonymous-companies/#comments Thu, 13 Nov 2014 01:15:17 +0000 http://www.financialtransparency.org/?p=25605 Last week, 25 renowned leaders on issues of transparency and equality drafted an open letter to the leaders of the G20 to address anonymous companies at this week’s summit in Brisbane. Alvin Mosioma, Chair of the Financial Transparency Coalition, signed the letter along with the heads of six organizations that are members of the FTC.


Open Letter to G20 Leaders

When a global financial system allows billions of dollars of corrupt or stolen money to flow unchecked around the globe, something is wrong. When financial secrecy helps strip Africa of US$50 billion each year, something is wrong. When the poor of this world see the wealth of their countries slip beyond their borders, something must be done.

That’s our message to you, as G20 leaders: when you take stock in November of the health of the world’s financial system, you must address the flaws that still allow the corrupt to operate with impunity and siphon off tainted monies. In your drive to achieve a target of 2% collective growth in GDP above trend, you must remember that growth must be inclusive and sustainable and not leave anyone behind. At the Brisbane Summit you must put people at the centre of your decision-making.

As long as there are places in the global financial system where illicit financial flows can find a safe harbour and there are people to help hide these funds there will be millions more around the world who suffer. You, the leaders of the world’s largest economies must make the global financial system serve its citizens.

At least one trillion dollars is siphoned from developing countries each year. The perpetrators of this “trillion dollar scandal” are rarely found, nor challenged. The UN estimates that global detection rates of illicit funds by law enforcement are as low as 1 per cent. However, there are common-sense ways to make it harder for criminals to hide the proceeds of their crimes. You have already done some of the heavy lifting.

The G20 has declared that shedding light on corporate ownership is a priority. Today anonymous companies, secrecy jurisdictions and opaque corporate ownership structures represent the primary methods used by those who are corrupt or evading tax to shift their funds and mask their identity. G20 governments must collect and publish the identity of the real, living people who ultimately own and control companies and other legal entities to make it easier to track the origin of corrupt or illicit funds. You as G20 leaders could take a bold step to unmask the corrupt by pledging to do this in Brisbane.

The G20 has agreed that profits should be taxed “where economic activities occur and value is created” to ensure that countries, especially developing countries do not lose out on the wealth of their resources and the graft of their people. It is crucial that multinational companies are more transparent about their operations. They should publish information about revenue, profits, numbers of staff, tax liabilities and taxes paid on a country-by-country basis. This needs to be public for citizens to see the impact of companies in their communities and to make it easier to scrutinise where money is earned and where it may be going missing.

Opacity in the global financial system serves as a smokescreen to hide crime and corruption but the G20 has the opportunity to shine a light and make it harder to hide. Lest we forget: the primary victims of organized crime, corruption, and tax evasion or avoidance are the poorest citizens of the world. Put people at the heart of your decisions in Brisbane next week.

Yours sincerely,

1. Raymond W. Baker, President, Global Financial Integrity

2. Winnie Byanyima, Executive Director, Oxfam International

3. John Christensen, Director, Tax Justice Network

4. Rev. Tim Costello, CEO, World Vision Australia and Chair of the Civil 20 (C20)

5. Jamie Drummond, Co-Founder, The ONE Campaign

6. Joel Edwards, International Director, Micah Challenge

7. Professor the Hon Gareth Evans AC QC, Chancellor, Australian National University

8. Matthew Frost, Chief Executive, Tearfund

9. John Githongo, CEO Inuka Kenya Nisisi Ltd, former Permanent Secretary, Governance and Ethics,

Office of the President of Kenya

10. Robert Glasser, Secretary General, CARE International

11. Richard Goldstone, Retired Justice of the Constitutional Court of South Africa

12. Manzoor Hasan, Chair, UN Convention against Corruption (UNCAC) Coalition

13. Gavin Hayman, Executive Director, Global Witness

14. Tawakkol Karman, 2011 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate & Founder, Women Journalists Without Chains

15. Daniel Kaufmann, President, Natural Resource Governance Institute (NRGI)

16. Caroline Kende-Robb, Executive Director, Africa Progress Panel

17. Akaash Maharaj, Executive Director, Global Organization of Parliamentarians Against Corruption

18. Loretta Minghella, Chief Executive, Christian Aid

19. Alvin Mosioma, Chair, Financial Transparency Coalition

20. Archbishop Njongo Ndungane, President and Founder, African Monitor

21. Salil Shetty, Secretary General, Amnesty International

22. Oriana Suárez, Latin American Network on Debt, Development and Rights

23. Cobus de Swardt, Managing Director, Transparency International

24. Archbishop Desmond Tutu, 1984 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and former Archbishop of Cape Town

25. Jasmine Whitbread, CEO, Save the Children

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New report from Transparency International: corporate secrecy is alive and well http://www.financialtransparency.org/2014/11/06/new-report-from-transparency-international-corporate-secrecy-is-alive-and-well/ http://www.financialtransparency.org/2014/11/06/new-report-from-transparency-international-corporate-secrecy-is-alive-and-well/#comments Thu, 06 Nov 2014 11:27:16 +0000 http://www.financialtransparency.org/?p=25588 2080966871_c08901a22d_zIn a new report released this week titled Transparency in Corporate Reporting: Assessing the World’s Largest Companies anti-corruption watchdog Transparency International (TI) analyzes the disclosure practices of the world’s largest publicly listed companies. This report is part of a series of studies aimed at evaluating the corporate world’s transparency and accountability practices. In this report, TI looks at 124 corporations and scores them on transparency according to three dimensions: reporting on anti-corruption programs, organizational transparency, and country-by-country reporting. TI’s research finds that many companies are fairly transparent regarding their anti-corruption programs, but much less so regarding their organizational structures and country-by-country activities. Despite new legislation dictating enhanced disclosure requirements for companies, much of the elite corporate world remains cloaked by insufficient reporting standards. In many instances, it is difficult for stakeholders and the public to hold companies accountable without open access to information about where they are operating and in what capacity. Most large companies have significant overseas operations but publish very little information about what they do abroad making them increasingly susceptible to corruption.]]> 2080966871_c08901a22d_zIn a new report released this week, Transparency in Corporate Reporting: Assessing the World’s Largest Companies, Transparency International (TI) analyzes the disclosure practices of the world’s largest publicly listed companies. This report is part of a series of studies aimed at evaluating the corporate world’s transparency and accountability practices. In this report, TI looks at 124 corporations and scores them on transparency according to three dimensions: reporting on anti-corruption programs, organizational transparency, and country-by-country reporting.

TI’s research finds that many companies are fairly transparent regarding their anti-corruption programs, but much less so regarding their organizational structures and country-by-country activities.

Despite new legislation dictating enhanced disclosure requirements for companies, much of the elite corporate world remains cloaked by insufficient reporting standards. In many instances, it is difficult for stakeholders and the public to hold companies accountable without open access to information about where they are operating and in what capacity. Most large companies have significant overseas operations but publish very little information about what they do abroad making them increasingly susceptible to corruption.

Although a relatively recent concept, public country-by-country reporting has gained prominence due, in part, to new legislation for multinational extractive companies introduced in the US and EU. Furthermore, the OECD has developed common standards for country-by-country reporting that are expected to be on the G20 Leader’s Summit agenda in November.

According to the report:

Country-by-country reporting provides a basic level of transparency needed for companies to be held accountable for their activities in a particular country. Disclosing key financial data enables citizens to evaluate whether the company is contributing in a manner appropriate to its level of activity and, in some instances, to provide entry points to identify potential cases of corruption.

Country-by-country reporting is therefore an important part of a company’s transparency initiatives, yet has had low implementation. The study found that companies scored an average of 6% on the country-by-country reporting aspect of the evaluation. In fact, not a single company scored above 75% in this area, and more than 50 companies actually scored a zero.

This was by far the lowest result of all three dimensions assessed in the report with anti-corruption programs and organizational transparency scoring 70% and 39% averages, respectively.

What accounts for this aversion to country by country reporting?

Coupled with being a new concept, businesses have resisted country-by-country reporting citing fears of diminished competitiveness and cost. But improved disclosure is easily achievable looking at the top performing companies in TI’s study. Norway’s Statoil tops the rankings in country-by-country reporting transparency with a comparatively high 66% score, followed by Spain’s Telefonica at 54% and the UK’s Vodafone at 51%. Clearly this demonstrates that country-by-country reporting is possible and not anti-competitive as the best performing industry in this reporting area was the highly competitive telecommunications sector.

Despite poor country-by-country reporting implementation, there were small gains in scores compared to the 2012 Corporate Reporting study by Transparency International. While they still have much ground to cover, the debate about corporate disclosure is evolving. For example, a survey carried out earlier this year by global accounting firm PwC showed that 59% of CEOs support making country-by-country financial information public.

Transparency International recommends that governments enforce requirements on all companies to publish financial account data on a country-by-country and project-by-project basis to promote effective monitoring, curb corruption, and tackle tax avoidance.

These powerful global corporations exert substantial economic and political influence but we largely know little about them. Demanding a common reporting standard for multinational business is a path to better accountability and a level playing field for all.


Image used under Creative Commons License / Flickr User Lorenzo G

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Finding the Money: how capping illicit flows can spur development http://www.financialtransparency.org/2014/10/31/finding-the-money-how-capping-illicit-flows-can-spur-development/ http://www.financialtransparency.org/2014/10/31/finding-the-money-how-capping-illicit-flows-can-spur-development/#comments Fri, 31 Oct 2014 20:38:03 +0000 http://www.financialtransparency.org/?p=25569 ODAvsIFFAs the deadline for the Millennium Development Goals looms, policy makers worldwide have begun discussing a post-2015 development process to formalize new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). While targets have been discussed, creating a comprehensive financing framework remains essential to the process.

United Nations Secretary General Ban-Ki Moon elaborated on the importance:

“We have three priorities for the year ahead (…) First, we must accelerate our efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goals. Second, we have to agree on a transformative post-2015 development agenda. Third, we need to achieve a meaningful universal climate agreement in Paris next year. Financing is one of the keys to succeed in all these endeavors. It will be at the heart of the political agreement that Governments have to reach for a successful sustainable development agenda.”

The success of the SDGs depends on how effectively and efficiently the world’s countries can mobilize the resources necessary to meet substantial future targets. But the current global economic climate has put pressure on major donor countries to reduce the amount of official development assistance (ODA) that goes to developing nations. In the face of this reality, one question looms large overhead: how are developing nations expected to finance the SDGs?

While there always seems to be a discussion reserved for asking how to make the aid that is given more effective, one potential source of sustainable revenue in the developing world could come from reducing illicit financial flows (IFFs). IFFs refers to money that is illegally earned, transferred or utilized, and includes money flows relating to corruption, tax evasion, organized crime, and trade mispricing.

During the 2014 Annual World Bank/IMF meetings, global leaders met to discuss the role of IFFs in the development process. In a panel titled “Illicit Financial Flows and the Post-2015 Development Agenda”, Dr. Atiur Rahman, Governor of Bangladesh’s Central Bank, stressed the importance of domestic resource mobilization in light of declining ODA. He also stressed the necessity of combating corruption. The post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals will require massive mobilization of new investment resources for developing countries, as emphasized at the forum by Dr. Rahman. The point was echoed by Hans Brattskar, State Secretary for International Development from the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, who said that “curbing illicit financial flows is the single most powerful initiative we can take to secure the right every country has to generate domestic resources.”

GDPinfographicAs illicit financial outflows often represent a noticeable portion of a developing nation’s gross domestic product, recovering this lost revenue should be a priority in the effort to achieve effective development finance streams. Not only will curbing IFFs reduce dependence on external loans and ODA, but it will also give nations a chance to build capacity and the institutional infrastructure necessary to combat corruption and trade abuses in the long term.

The UN Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals has already acknowledged the substantial role IFFs must play in the post-2015 process, and the group has proposed targets to (by 2030) “significantly reduce illicit financial and arms flows, strengthen recovery and return of stolen assets, and combat all forms of organized crime.” This firmly places the reduction of illicit flows as a key component of the sustainable development goals.  Targets like this, in addition to significant support from the international community to create global initiatives, will be key to laying the foundation for sustainable financing of development.

The World Bank Group panel has put IFFs at the forefront of the financing development agenda. Secretary Brattskar pledged that Norway would use its role as co-chair for the Financing for Development process to put illicit financial flows squarely at the center as they prepare for next year’s conference in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. While the future remains to be seen, the case for curbing illicit flows is powerful, the numbers are alarming, and the call to action is very clear.

 

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How Europe’s Investment Bank flouts its own tax haven policies http://www.financialtransparency.org/2014/10/31/how-europes-investment-bank-flouts-its-own-tax-haven-policies/ http://www.financialtransparency.org/2014/10/31/how-europes-investment-bank-flouts-its-own-tax-haven-policies/#comments Fri, 31 Oct 2014 15:25:15 +0000 http://www.financialtransparency.org/?p=25567 The European Commission has launched a series of investigations into the tax structures of companies like Google, Apple and Amazon, for fear that they are siphoning off tax revenue from Europe.

Far less attention has been paid to the role of institutions like the EU-backed European Investment Bank (EIB) in financing this offshore trade, particularly when it comes to developing countries.

Could this change? The Tax Justice Network’sIllicit Finance Journalism Programme has discovered that hundreds of millions of euros have flowed to companies linked to the secretive British Virgin Islands (BVI) though an Egyptian private equity fund, Qalaa Holdings.

The full investigation was published in a number of European and African publications, and it reveals some worrying loopholes in the EIB’s policy on offshore finance.

According to the EIB, the bank was able to knowingly send hundreds of millions of tax payer backed funds to companies controlled from the British Virgin Islands, because in 2010 when the investments were approved they didn’t consider the BVIs a tax haven.

The EIB was using the OECD’s famous ‘empty list’ of tax havens, which by 2012 had just two tiny Pacific islands on it. This opened up potentially hundreds of billions of euros of tax payer funds being invested in loosely regulated tax havens across the world.

How many other investments like this the EIB made before the publication of the (slightly better but still deficient) Global Forum analysis of jurisdictions is a question the European Parliament may want to consider. The European Parliament’s International Development Committee has recently started putting together a report on tax havens and Linda McAvan, the chair, has promised to pass the TJN’s investigation onto the report authors.

There is also another question to consider here too. As Eurodad has noted, over 50% of funds that go to the private sector from DFIs go to the finance industry.

We all know that the finance sector is addicted to offshore – so why isnt the EIB and other institutions using some of that huge leverage they have to do something about it?

It was published today in the EU Observer here.  It is running as the front page splash in Germany’s Tagesspiegel today in both its print and online version here. The piece is also expected to be published on a progressive Egyptian news magazine, Mada Masr later, as well asDe Correspondent in the Netherlands, and in  The Observer, Uganda on Monday.

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Not an end to secrecy, but a first step in the right direction http://www.financialtransparency.org/2014/10/30/not-an-end-to-secrecy-but-a-first-step-in-the-right-direction/ http://www.financialtransparency.org/2014/10/30/not-an-end-to-secrecy-but-a-first-step-in-the-right-direction/#comments Thu, 30 Oct 2014 21:11:15 +0000 http://www.financialtransparency.org/?p=25560 5761956488_abc5734fc7_zA multitude of officials are heralding a new cross-border tax information exchange crafted by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) as the end of tax evasion as we know it. Unfortunately, the truth may be a bit more ambiguous. Wolfgang Schaeuble, Germany's finance head, stated unequivocally that "banking secrecy in its old form has had its day." Others, from George Osborne of the United Kingdom to Michel Sapinof France echoed similar praises. While the reforms, which were discussed at a Berlin conference this week, are a big step in the direction of real financial transparency, the Tax Justice Network, a member of the FTC, has released a new report detailing their concerns with the plan, and why it's vital that we continue to push for stronger and more inclusive measures.]]> 5761956488_abc5734fc7_zA multitude of officials are heralding a new cross-border tax information exchange crafted by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) as the end of tax evasion as we know it. Unfortunately, the truth may be a bit more ambiguous.

Wolfgang Schaeuble, Germany’s finance head, stated unequivocally that “banking secrecy in its old form has had its day.” Others, from George Osborne of the United Kingdom to Michel Sapinof France echoed similar praises.

While the reforms, which were discussed at a Berlin conference this week, are a big step in the direction of real financial transparency, the Tax Justice Network, a member of the FTC, has released a new report detailing their concerns with the plan, and why it’s vital that we continue to push for stronger and more inclusive measures. 

The OECD plan on automatic exchange of financial information is aimed at cutting down on individuals and companies hiding their money in foreign bank accounts. Currently, countries enter into bilateral agreements that are often “on request”, meaning that if a country believes individuals are hiding money in other jurisdictions, and thus evading taxes, the authorities must put in a request for the information.

This bureaucratic and time consuming process often ends in no information sharing at all, especially when the money is held in highly-secretive jurisdictions. The new system would allow for the exchange of this information automatically at designated intervals, but there’s some concern that developing and low income countries may be left out of the exchange, and they’re often among those most affected by illicit financial flows.

Markus Meinzer, one of the report’s authors, states his caution:

The new OECD standard on automatic information exchange is a big first step towards tackling illicit financial flows. However, serious obstacles to the inclusion of developing countries and a number of unresolved loopholes will prevent its effectiveness, allowing rich individuals with plenty of options to avoid reporting. Moreover, its narrow focus on tax evasion represents a missed opportunity in the fight against corruption and money laundering.

Meinzer, along with Andres Knobel, highlight many of their concerns in the full report, which you can download here.


Image used under Creative Commons Licensing / Flickr User Gobierno de Chile

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Feeding The 1%: new report exposes the disturbing world of agricultural investors, financial secrecy and land grabs http://www.financialtransparency.org/2014/10/29/feeding-the-1-new-report-exposes-the-disturbing-world-of-agricultural-investors-financial-secrecy-and-land-grabs/ http://www.financialtransparency.org/2014/10/29/feeding-the-1-new-report-exposes-the-disturbing-world-of-agricultural-investors-financial-secrecy-and-land-grabs/#comments Wed, 29 Oct 2014 20:13:01 +0000 http://www.financialtransparency.org/?p=25541 5377584938_356a5c688c_b The G8 and World Bank argue that the recent huge wave of private sector investment in agriculture increases innovation, jobs and food output. But is this correct? Forensic new research from influential campaign group, GRAIN suggests the opposite is true. GRAIN’s report, Feeding the 1 percent, produces evidence which indicates the avalanche of investment after the 2008 global food crisis is predatory and that investors have “little or no background in agriculture”.]]> 5377584938_356a5c688c_b

The G8 and World Bank argue that the recent huge wave of private sector investment in agriculture increases innovation, jobs and food output.

But is this correct?

Forensic new research from influential campaign group, GRAIN suggests the opposite is true.

GRAIN’s report, Feeding the 1 percent, produces evidence which indicates the avalanche of investment after the 2008 global food crisis is predatory and that investors have “little or no background in agriculture”.

It finds “a worrying picture emerges of what happens when speculative finance starts flowing into food production” when deals are scrutinised in detail.

Feeding the 1% also says a lot about the failure of governments to protect both their land and populations from this new class of investors who often seem more interested in maximising generous payouts to their directors and shareholders than increasing food production.

Disturbingly, many governments have granted an array of incentives to facilitate “dubious land deals and kick back schemes” that are resulting in undermining food production and pushing small farmers off their land without any debate.

In one such example a farmer in Sierra Leone who had his land taken tells GRAIN: “Only the chief, the member of parliament and ‘the white people’ knew that the agreement involved all of their land.”

GRAIN focuses on investments made by Indian billionaire Chinnakannan Sivasankaran – one of the world’s largest farmland holders.

His business strategy takes advantage of the so-called ‘commodities supercycle’ – taking advantage of rising populations and the resulting demand for resources.

Sivasankaran, like many investors, identifies Africa as the focus of all that demand and he is pouring his money in there now.

Through the Siva Group, the Indian tycoon is buying shipping lines, oil and gas reserves, mines and plantations. And he’s particularly big on palm oil. From Cameroon to Papua New Guinea, Indonesia and Sierra Leone, his ‘near term objective’ is apparently “to have control over a total of 200,000 hectares of plantable lands in each of at least four African countries and another 200,000 hectares in Papua New Guinea”.

A senior manager of Sivasankaran’s Siva Group is quoted in the report saying: “If you go to Liberia, the Liberian government issues you a concession, the local people don’t agree, the president of the country tells them that the government agrees so you must agree. If you go to Cameroon, again it is basically the government that gives you the land.”

According to GRAIN, many of these companies have failed to produce much food, yet curiously “have been very useful for shifting finance and debt around and paid their directors handsome salaries”.

GRAIN’s analysis suggests:

  • Siva Group is structured around a web of tax havens and shell companies. The two centres of this empire are Singapore and the British Virgin Islands, numbers 5 and 20 on the Tax Justice Network’s Financial Secrecy Index respectively.
  • Payment for major land concessions for oil palm development from Liberian companies equal to about 6% of the country’s entire land area was made to two offshore companies – where there is no record of who the beneficial owners are.

The report asks how the rights to such a large amount of land could have been acquired as Liberia was only just emerging from a brutal civil war and was still governed by a National Transition Government. Liberia’s Public Procurement and Concession Commission found the agreement in question contained “gross irregularities and non-compliance with the law” and the company involved had to renegotiate.

It appears that much of these complex land deals, acquisition rights and shares are more about gaining greater leverage in terms of credit and inter-company loans to expand and make even more land deals than solving the global food crisis.

Contrary to what glossy investor brochures may state, many of these ‘agricultural’ ventures have resulted in only a small fraction of its land concessions being brought into production. The company involved in the Liberia land deal has reported multi-million dollar losses year on year. So why did it pay its directors huge salaries over the same period?

GRAIN is a small international non-profit organisation that works to support small farmers and social movements in their struggles for community-controlled and biodiversity-based food systems.

Two of the report’s authors attended the Illicit Finance Journalism Programme – a four day training course combined with a pro-active mentoring service for participants run by the Tax Justice Network and supported by the FTC.

“I did a lot of digging through company reports that I probably wouldn’t have done or been able to do properly without having attended the IFJP and this is where a lot of really important info came out,” said GRAIN researcher, Devlin Kuyek.

This is a timely and excellent examination of ‘agricultural’ investors by GRAIN. It provokes a series of questions, not least: will today’s ‘agricultural’ investors improve the global food situation? And how long will it take the world to stop anonymous ownership and financial secrecy structures that are facilitating the sacking of nations in the name of addressing the global food crisis?


You can download their report Feeding the 1 percent here: http://www.grain.org/article/entries/5048-feeding-the-1-percent

Image used under Creative Commons License / Flickr User Lian Pin Koh

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