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New Global Witness Report: Major Corruption Risks in Liberia’s Oil Sector

Oliver Courtney
Curse or Cure?

Global Witness

International oil companies such as the U.S. giant Chevron are beginning exploration off of Liberia’s coastline. However, this new research by Global Witness and Liberian Oil and Gas Initiative (LOGI)1 suggests that while Liberia has come a long way from the devastating set of resource-financed civil wars that claimed the lives of 250,000 people between 1989 and 2003, serious governance problems persist, and the warning signs for the emerging oil sector are stark.

Curse or Cure? How oil can boost or break Liberia’s post-war recovery shows that even before a discovery is made, there are deep-seated problems in Liberia’s oil sector: government officials and at least one company have paid bribes, contracts have been awarded illegally and companies with little experience in the oil sector have received concessions.

With a crucial election upcoming in October 2011, the new Liberian government and international donors have a choice. They can reform the country’s laws and government agencies so that Liberia’s people benefit from oil. Or they can allow Liberia to continue down its present path, undermining the country’s post-war reconstruction and risking a return to the corrupt, unstable resource management that has characterized Liberia’s history. This report sets out the problems and makes recommendations for what needs to be done.

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Monday’s Daily News Digest

Rawitawan Pulam

Supreme Court moved against black money
The Nation (Pakistan), September 26, 2011

Special report: Nevada’s big bet on secrecy
Reuters, September 26, 2011

Memo to the G20: stop turning a blind eye to tax dodgers
The Guardian, September 26, 2011

Big banks targeted by IRS on tax breaks
Financial Times, September 25, 2011

Many banks unaware of new U.S. tax evasion law
Financial Post, September 26, 2011

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Dear Rep. Sensenbrenner – An Effort to Weaken FCPA Will Not Succeed

Rawitawan Pulam
Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner

House Republican Conference/Flickr*

Raymond W. Baker, the director of Task Force member Global Financial Integrity, has written a letter to Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R – WI) warning him against introducing legislation to weaken the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA).

The letter, which has received coverage from The Wall Street Journal and Just Anti-Corruption suggests there will be political ramifications to for the Congressman should he follow through with his promise to introduce legislation to ammend the nation’s flagship anti-corruption law.

Just Anti-Corruption (subscription required) reports:

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Friday’s Daily News Digest

Rawitawan Pulam

Anti-Corruption Group Warns Sensenbrenner of Political Peril in FCPA Changes
Just Anti-Corruption (Subscription Required), September 22, 2011

Is Manmohan Singh the Perfect Economic Hit Man?
Salem-News, September 22, 2011

Wocu makes strides but experts say victory is premature
Financial Advisor, September 22, 2011

Revenue targets accounts of 2,000 suspected tax dodgers
Irish Examiner, September 23, 2011

Impact of foreign Anti-Corruption campaigns
Bangkok Post, September 23, 2011

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Highlights from the Task Force Response to the FATF Consultation Paper

Ann Hollingshead

The Financial Action Task Force (FATF) is a global, instrumental inter-governmental group that develops and promotes policies battle money laundering and terrorist financing. The FATF issues a set of recommendations to outline criminal justice and regulatory measures that countries should implement to effectively fight these problems.

This set includes the FATF’s 40 Recommendations, which are a detailed list of anti-money laundering (AML) measures and span the criminal justice system, law enforcement, the financial system, financial regulation, and international co-operation. Additionally, the FATF has promulgated 9 Special Recommendations, which specifically address terrorist financing. Together the 40+9 Recommendations form the international standard for combating money laundering and terrorist financing. There are currently 36 members of the FATF, which includes 34 jurisdictions and 2 regional organizations, and over 180 countries and jurisdictions have endorsed the FATF’s 40+9 Recommendations.

The FATF is currently conducting a review of these Recommendations in three separate stages to ensure they are up to date and relevant. They also want to ensure that Recommendations reflect the most current global conditions and benefit from lessons many countries have learned in the process of implementing and evaluating them. While the FATF provides a global standard on these issues, it recognizes there is always room for improvement, particularly through discussion with organizations, governments, and individuals who understand these complex, dynamic issues and have thought out coherent and effective solutions. It is pleasing the FATF has encouraged a public debate and has welcomed members of civil society to participate.

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Thursday’s Daily News Digest

Rawitawan Pulam

G20 Risks Undermining Fight Against Tax Dodgers, Warns Christian Aid
Christian Aid, September 22, 2011

Global partnership to combat corruption launched
Trust Law, September 22, 2011

Merkel Government Signs Swiss Tax Deal as Opposition Bridles
Bloomberg, September 21, 2011

Tax treaty rejig on hold as Mauritius faces political crisis
Times of India, September 22, 2011

More attention needs to be paid to money laundering, say KPMG
Business Daily, September 22, 2011

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Wednesday’s Daily News Digest

Rawitawan Pulam

Petition moved in SC to recover looted wealth from politicians, bureaucrats
Daily Times (Pakistan), September 21, 2011

Anna Hazare: India’s New Superhero
Newsline (Pakistan), September 21, 2011

US Joins Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative Amid Open Government Launch
Wall Street Journal, September 20, 2011

News Corp. Said to Get U.S. Letter Seeking Information For Bribery Probe
Bloomberg, September 20, 2011

Survey Finds Big Business Breaks Out AML Compliance
Wall Street Journal, September 20, 2011

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A Promising Moment

Ann Hollingshead

Today, at the United Nations in New York City, President Obama inaugurated the Open Government Partnership (OGP) with Brazil, the co-chair. The OGP is a global effort to improve governance worldwide through transparency and accountability—two principals that many members of this Task Force have argued for persuasively for many years. To become a member of OGP, countries must adopt an Open Government Declaration, deliver a country action plan, and commit to independent reporting. As of today, eight countries have joined the OGP: Brazil, Indonesia, Mexico, Philippines, South Africa, United Kingdom, United States, and—the relentless crusader for anticorruption and better governance—Norway. Currently, Albania and Azerbaijan are developing their commitments, in hopes of joining the OGP soon.

At the event, President Obama called open government “the essence of democracy.” Well put, sir.

Even more exciting, though, is the President’s commitment to the EITI or the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) through the OGP. The EITI is a voluntary framework under which governments publicly disclose their revenues from oil, gas, and mining assets. Likewise companies make parallel disclosures regarding payments they are making to obtain access to these resources. This data provides an important point of comparison and fosters integrity and accountability. Through the OGP, the United States has noted it is committed to implementing the EITI to “ensure that taxpayers are receiving every dollar due for extraction of our natural resources.” This is important because the U.S. is a major developer of natural resources and “collects approximately $10 billion in annual revenues from the development of oil, gas, and minerals on Federal lands and offshore.”  

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Tuesday’s Daily News Digest

Rawitawan Pulam

Glencore and BP named as worst offenders at top of tax secrecy table
This is Money, September 20, 2011

The Moving Finger Writes UPA’s unwillingness to fight corruption
Organiser, September 25, 2011

FATF targets corruption, tax evasion as part of AML efforts
TrustLaw, September 20, 2011

Anti-money laundering slips on board agendas
Insurance Daily, September 20, 2011

Counterterrorism Today
Voice of America (Editorial), September 20, 2011

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Memo to the Extractive Industries: Tell Us What You’re Doing in Secrecy Jurisdictions

Richard Murphy
Piping Profits Report

PWYP Norway

As The Guardian reports this morning:

More than a third of the subsidiaries owned by major energy and mining companies including Shell, BP and Glencore are based in “secrecy jurisdictions” where company accounts are not publicly available, according to a report.

The study by Publish What You Pay Norway, which campaigns for transparent accounting among oil, gas and mining giants, claims that populations in resource-rich countries are losing out because they are unable to extract financial information from businesses operating on their soil or off their seaboards.

“Extractive industry giants’ corporate ownership structures, their use of secrecy jurisdictions and the lack of meaningful information they impart is a major reason why stakeholders in resource-rich nations often meet a wall of silence when asking questions,” says the report. “This makes it very difficult to hold their politicians and the companies that extract oil, gas and minerals to account.”

The full report is available here. And yes, in the interests of full disclosure, I should note I advised on its production.

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Monday’s Daily News Digest

Rawitawan Pulam

Changing Key Law Could Mean “License To Bribe”
IPS, September 17, 2011

Book Review: Sense, Sensex And Sensibilities: The Failure Of India’s Financial Sentinels
DNA India, September 18, 2011

Tax Fight or Flight?
Wall Street Journal, September 19, 2011

2,250 tax inspectors lined up for avoidance focus
Accountancy Age, September 19, 2011

Tax evasion costs gov’t P40B a year
Manila Bulletin, September 19, 2011

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Distorted, Misleading, Just Plain Wrong

Ann Hollingshead

Have you ever heard someone really intelligent say something really wrong? I certainly have. It happens all the time. Smart people aren’t always right. Well, apparently, that’s also true of publications.

The Economist, which self-identifies as a magazine for the highly intelligent, has (with perhaps a touch of good humor) claimed in its advertisements that it “makes white collars brighter” and called itself the “leaders digest.” This may be a bit self-inflated, but generally speaking The Economist is a thoughtful publication. While I don’t agree with many of its convictions, I more often than not respect its point of view. At the very least, I believe its articles are well-researched, carefully considered, and supported by facts.

Not today.

Today, The Economist has published an article with a conclusion that is not only biased and misled; it is riddled with factual errors. Riddled.[1]

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Latest Press Releases

TED Prize Winner Charmian Gooch Announces Global Campaign to Abolish Anonymous Companies

Global Witness · March 19, 2014

Vancouver, Canada, March 18, 2014 –This year’s TED Prize winner – Charmian Gooch of Global Witness – has announced that she will use the prestigious million-dollar award “to make it impossible for criminals and corrupt dictators to hide behind anonymous companies.” The announcement was made live and online from the TED stage in Vancouver, with support from leading members of the business, political, law enforcement and campaigning community.

European Parliament Gives Overwhelming ‘yes’ Vote to End Secret Corporate Ownership

Financial Transparency Coalition · March 11, 2014

Joint NGO Media Reaction Financial Transparency Coalition – Eurodad – Global Witness – Transparency International EU Office – Oxfam Brussels, March 11, 2014 – Today, the European Parliament endorsed the creation of public registers of who really owns companies, trusts and other legal structures. This will make it much harder for criminals, tax evaders, corrupt politicians and other money launderers to hide their identity, and their illicitly-acquired assets, behind anonymous companies and trusts.

NGOs welcome MEPs’ vote for ground-breaking changes to fight money laundering

Financial Transparency Coalition · February 20, 2014

Joint NGO media reaction Financial Transparency Coalition – Eurodad - Global Witness - Oxfam A cross political party agreement in the European Parliament ...