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Nov
18

Sarkozy’s Problem

Ann Hollingshead

Two weeks ago, the twenty most powerful leaders of the world headed to Cannes, France for the G20 Summit. It was the G20’s sixth meeting in a series of ongoing discussions about the world’s financial markets. While the meeting did not reach any concrete policy decisions on a host of important issues plaguing our financial world, some of the accomplishments of the meeting included a few pointed and poignant statements from some of the world’s most powerful. One of these statements came from Indian Prime Minister Manomohan Singh, who urged the world’s twenty most powerful countries to agree to automatic exchange of tax information. His comments were an important step forward for the world and for India.

The other powerful statement to come out of the meeting in Cannes was from French President Nicholas Sarkozy, who had some very strong words for uncooperative low tax jurisdictions. Sarkozy intonated that a list of eleven uncooperative jurisdictions should be “excluded from the international community,” including: Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago, Antigua, Botswana, Brunei, Panama, Seychelles, Uruguay, Vanuatu, Switzerland and Liechtenstein. He added that a list of countries which do not conform to acceptable tax practices would be published at all future G20 summits. “We don’t want to have tax havens any more.” He said “Our message is very clear.”

Loud and clear, sir.

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Nov
18

Friday’s Daily News Digest

Nathan Williams

Whistleblower puts Julius Bär in a fix
World Radio Switzerland, November 18, 2011

No verdict in case of Swiss ex-banker linked to WikiLeaks
Reuters Canada, November 17, 2011

UBS slashes investment bank arm
ABC News, November 18, 2011

AP Impact: Right-to-know laws often ignored
Associated Press, November 17, 2011

Grassley Presses Holder on FCPA Guidance
The Wall Street Journal, November 17, 2011

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Nov
17

Featured Video of the Week: A Panel Discussion on Shell Corporations and Beneficial Ownership

EJ Fagan

Each week, the Task Force blog will feature a video relating to the global fight against corruption, tax evasion, and poverty. 

This week, U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) introduced the Incorporation Transparency and Law Enforcement Assistance Act. The bill would require all U.S. corporations to disclose a real human being as the beneficial owner of the corporation. Ann Hollingshead wrote a great blog post about the bill earlier this week.

This week’s featured video shows an excellent discussion about beneficial ownership from the Task Force 2011 Conference in Paris, France.  They discuss how a lack of disclosed beneficial ownership protects corrupt dictators and tax dodgers from law enforcement scrutiny, why legitimate businesses will not be hurt by the requirement, and implications for international development.

The panel is chaired by Anthea Lawson of Global Witness, and includes Raymond Baker, Director of the Task Force and Global Financial Integrity and Jean Pesme, Coordinator of the Stolen Asset Recovery Initiative (StAR) at the World Bank.

The video is a valuable tool for anyone who wants or needs to know more about how illicit money is moved around the globe. It runs for 1 hour.

You can both access our library of videos and at the Task Force’s Youtube page. 

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Nov
17

Thursday’s Daily News Digest

Nathan Williams

Take firm stand on AFSPA: Advani tells Center
Greater Kashmir, November 16, 2011

European Union stumbles to Busan. Foreign Affairs Council agrees common EU position
EURODAD, November 16, 2011

Ten means to put an end to black money issue
The Economic Times, November 17, 2011

Tax evasion pressure maintained on Switzerland
Swiss Info, November 16, 2011

Greece has 60 billion euros in unpaid taxes: EU report
Reuters, November 17, 2011

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Nov
16

A Standard of Security

Ann Hollingshead

A Metaphor for U.S Incorporation Secrecy - flickr / waxorian

Imagine for a moment that airline security were left up to individual states, rather than the federal government. It’s perhaps not too much of a stretch of the imagination to conclude that different states would adopt different levels of security. For example, some states might require their passengers to provide identification to ensure they aren’t terrorists and pass their bags through x-ray machines to ensure those passengers aren’t trying to load illicit materials onto the airplane. Other states, though, might think it’s advantageous to reduce their security requirements. They might argue that by reducing screening, they could trim down wait times and attract more passengers into their airport. They might argue this would create more jobs and incomes within their state.

Do you see the problem with this? Of course by reducing security, those states would also attract another kind of crowd. The criminal kind. Terrorists would take advantage of these weak screening procedures. One state’s security gap would open the entire country to risk.

We would never allow it to happen in aviation. So why do we allow it to happen in banking?

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Nov
16

Gibraltar – just another sordid little tax haven supported by the UK

Richard Murphy

As AFP reported late yesterday:

Europe’s top court barred Britain on Tuesday from enacting a corporate tax reform in its tiny territory of Gibraltar, ruling the scheme would amount to illegal state aid for offshore companies.

The European Union Court of Justice found that the proposed tax system was “designed in such a way that offshore companies avoid taxation,” making it “incompatible with the internal market” rules.

The ruling was a victory for the European Commission, which had stated in 2004 that the proposed system was incompatible with EU rules and would give companies in Gibraltar a lower rate than those taxed in Britain.

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Nov
16

Wednesday’s Daily News Digest

Nathan Williams

Human Trafficking is World’s 2nd Most Profitable Crime: Report
In Sight Crime, November 15, 2011

Unvarying Advani rolls in, Punjab too proccupied to notice
Express India, November 16, 2011

C.Suisse ends oldest Swiss bank brand Leu
Reuters, November 15, 2011

In Indonesia, Anger Against Mining Giant Grows
NPR, November 16, 2011

Dookeran hits out at Sarkozy
Stabroek News, November 15, 2011

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Nov
15

Publish What You Fund Releases 2011 Pilot Aid Transparency Index

EJ Fagan

Publish What You Fund, one of the Task Force’s Allied Organizations, has released their 2011 Pilot Aid Transparency Index. The index is relatively unique in that it looks at the donors, rather than the recipients, of aid, and ranks them by how transparent their giving process is. In all, they ranked 58 countries and institutions who collectively give billions of dollars of aid to the developing world.

Among the best performers were the World Bank International Development Association, Millenium Challenge Corporation and the governments of Sweden, Denmark, and the Netherlands. Among the worst performers were not only U.S. Departments of Treasury and Defense and China, but also surprising donors like the governments of Spain and Portugal.

Transparency in aid giving is enormously important in order to hold stakeholders accountable and make sure that aid money actually helps people in need. Countries who are spending large (if not large enough) sums of money attempting to help boost up the world’s poorest peoples should not be actively undermining their own efforts by promoting an opaque system of aid giving. Unfortunately, Publish What You Fund came to the following conclusions:

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Nov
15

Tuesday’s Daily News Digest

Nathan Williams

Baba Ramdev steps up pressure on government to enforce strong anti-graft laws
Newstrack India, November 13, 2011

Global Witness Welcomes Moves To Stop Corrupt Politicians And Criminals From Hiding Behind Anonymous U.S. Shell Companies
Global Witness, November 15, 2011

Govt may allow Nepalis to invest abroad
iStockAnalyst, November 14, 2011

Credit Suisse to reveal details of super-rich US ‘tax evaders’
The Guardian, November 14, 2011

What obstacles are preventing black money retrieval by the government
The Economic Times, November 15, 2011

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Nov
14

G20 Commitments to Tax and Development: A Progress Report Card

David McNair PDF

This article is cross-posted at Triplecrisis.com. Click on ‘Continue Reading’ to download ChristianAid’s G20 Scorecard on taxes and development.

Back in September I was sitting in the salubrious office of an official from one of International Financial Institutions – when he slouched back in his chair, sighed and said ‘I can’t even bear to read those G20 communiqués – they are so vacuous.’ That evening, I found myself at a dinner hosted by DC law firm Jones Day where former Mexican President Zedillo branded the G20 ‘a disappointment.’

But last week Christian Aid welcomed the G20′s bold pronouncements on tax havens, financial transparency and development. President Sarkozy went as far as to say that havens that didn’t comply would be excluded from the international community. A whole programme of work on tax and development was agreed.

This was a major coup for organisations like Christian Aid and the Tax Justice Network that just three years ago were struggling to garner political support for these issues.

But haven’t we been here before? Back in 2009, the G20 declared ‘the era of banking secrecy is over.’ Yet this year the UK and Germany agreed to deals with Switzerland in lieu of tax from offshore account holders. Why didn’t the UK and Germany just get the information and pursue these individuals for what they owe? Banking secrecy, of course. It is alive and well. These deals, branded a disgrace by Christian Aid, were applauded by the Swiss bankers association for preserving their treasured ‘privacy’; read secrecy.

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Nov
14

Featured Allied Organization: Pragati Koraput

EJ Fagan

Every other week, the Task Force will be highlighting a Featured Allied Organization. The Task Force has 125 member organizations from all over the world which endorse its mission. Click here to access previous Featured Allied Organization posts. This week’s Featured Allied Organization is Pragati, Koraput.

Pragati, Koraput was established in January 1992 with the mission of improving the quality of life of tribal people and underprivileged sections of society living in remote pockets of Koraput district in Odisha, India. The tribal people in this region, due to their isolation, have been cut off from the mainstream of society and deprived of the basic amenities of life.  Pragati, Koraput plans activities based on analysis of the socio-economic and political contexts of the area and community dynamics, with emphasis on community empowerment. Their programs seek equitable, peaceful, productive and inclusive relationships within communities, protection of the environment and a culture of participation to influence and shape their lives. Their programs are unique in that they involve Community Based Organizations in project planning, implementation, monitoring and management.  To this end, Pragati, Koraput liaises with Panchayati Raj (local assemblies) and Government line departments, and networks with local, state and national NGOs and people’s organizations.  Current programs include: civil society development, natural resource management, system of rice intensification, sustainable agriculture, women’s self help groups and cooperatives, disaster risk reduction, and community based rehabilitation for persons with disabilities.

The featured photograph was taken at the District Level Women’s Convention which took place in January 2011.  To learn more about Pragati, Koraput and their programs please visit their webpage .

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Nov
14

Monday’s Daily News Digest

Nathan Williams

Grand Theft
The Southern Times, November 14, 2011

The corruption risk for governance and business
livemint.com, November 12, 2011

Advani starts jan chenta yatra in Punjab on high note but loses sheen midway
The Times of India, November 13, 2011

Credit Suisse released 130 US client files: report
AFP, November 14, 2011

Banking on not getting sanctioned
Now Lebanon, November 12, 2011

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GFI Notes Significant Progress on Automatic Information Exchange but Warns that Poorest Countries Are Being Shunned

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