Terrorists, drug traffickers, corrupt politicians and criminals easily move money around the globe every single day. They use shell corporations, which have no assets or operations and exist simply to conduct business transactions. Shell corporations serve no legitimate business purpose other than to hide their true owners and officers. They enable brutal dictators in Equatorial Guinea and Uzbekistan; terrorist groups, such as Hezbollah; and drug lords to hide their profits from crime and corruption.
The G20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors met in Moscow this weekend, following the release of the OECD’s report on Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (BEPS). That report, along with pieces of FTC’s agenda money laundering, automatic information exchange and beneficial ownership made it into the communiqué released by the G20 representatives following their summit.
Money launderers, corrupt politicians, terrorists, arms traffickers, drug smugglers, and tax evaders all rely on two things to move their dirty money: company structures that allow them to hide their identity, and banks and other professionals willing to do business with them. Both are all-too available.
This Global Witness briefing explains the problem of hidden company ownership, the ease with which the corrupt can set up anonymous companies and trusts, and how this is a major barrier in the fight against poverty. With this issue quickly rising up the political agenda, this briefing also explains what can be done to combat this problem.
Two key moments stand out for me last week. On Monday I saw former Senator Lugar (R-IN) receiveTransparency International USA’s “Integrity Award” for his work to combat corruption, whether through his oversight hearings of World Bank projects or his leadership on the Dodd-Frank Act, specifically the Cardin-Lugar oil, gas and mining payment disclosure provision. . During a dinner co-sponsored by Exxon, Senator Lugar recounted his lobby visits from oil company representatives during the consideration of this legislation that now requires oil, gas and mining companies to disclose their payments to host governments. After hearing them out, Lugar and his staff simply weren’t persuaded by industry arguments about competitive harm or compliance costs. Looking forward, Lugar referenced the litigation that the American Petroleum Institute has launched against the provision bearing his name and said that no matter the outcome, “The trend is in our direction.”
Tax evasion poses an acute challenge to developing and developed countries. From 2000 to 2010, illicit financial flows deprived developing countries of US$5.86 trillion. Tax evasion is not a victimless crime – for people in the developing world, the consequences of tax evasion can be a matter of life and death. If developing countries could recover this untaxed wealth, it could mobilise enormous resources for improving their public services and their citizens’ lives.
Today’s international tax rules, which were drawn up nearly a century ago, have not kept pace with the massive changes in the world economy.
This manual helps interested parties to understand and address corruption risks associated with forest carbon accounting – particularly REDD+ – programmes and strategies at the national level. Users will learn how to identify corruption risks and instruments to help address these risks within the development of national Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) action plans and strategies, and the implementation of REDD+ and other forest carbon projects.
The manual’s scope does not extend to corruption risks at the international level. Rather it is deliberately focused on processes that occur in country, to facilitate the participation of national and local groups in informing national policy, planning and project implementation. This tool is principally designed for civil society actors who may work with other NGOs, governments and the private sector to help design systems that are transparent, accountable, responsive and thus effective. It will help inform and guide forest carbon risk assessments, but should be adapted by users to fit their country contexts.
LONDON – Organisations representing over 1000 civil society groups have written to the EU calling on it to establish a new standard for company ownership transparency. NGO coalitions including Publish What You Pay, the UN Convention against Corruption civil society coalition and the Task Force on Financial Integrity and Economic Development, are asking for a new standard that companies have to publicly disclose their ultimate, or beneficial, owner.
To get to the bottom of corruption, Transparency International analyses a range of critical societal institutions (such as the business, media or political parties) and assesses their ability to prevent corruption. This ‘national integrity system’ assessment has been carried out in more than 70 countries worldwide, with 25 of the studies recently completed or being finalised across Europe.
The Greece report finds that several “pillars” of the Greek anti‐corruption system have fundamental flaws, the most significant of which is a crisis of values, typified by broad scale acceptance of and participation in corruption.
LONDON – The OECD’s Global Forum peer review, the main mechanism for assessing the effectiveness of Tax Information Exchange Agreements (TIEAs), is seriously flawed and therefore contributes to failure in reducing rampant tax evasion.
The findings of a new Tax Justice Network report published today run directly counter to claims made by the OECD that its TIEAs represent the new international standard on tax transparency.
Using consistently credible sources the resulting estimate of tax evasion in the European Union is approximately €860 billion a year. As the report notes, estimating tax avoidance, which is the other key component of the tax gap in Europe, is harder. However, an estimate that it might be €150 billion a year is made in this report. In combination it is therefore likely that tax evasion and tax avoidance might cost the governments of the European Union member states €1 trillion a year. These losses can only be accurately located with regard to tax evasion. Italy loses the most in Europe as a result of tax evasion. Its loss exceeds €180 billion a year. Estonia is, however, the biggest loser when the tax lost is expressed as a proportion of government spending. More than 28% of Estonia’s government spending is lost to tax evasion each year.
In August 2009, France and Switzerland amended their tax treaty. The new treaty stated that the two countries would from now on exchange upon request all information necessary for tax enforcement, including bank information otherwise protected by Swiss bank secrecy laws. In the following months, one of France’s richest persons and her wealth manager were taped discussing what to do with two undeclared Swiss bank accounts, worth $160 millions. After a visit to Switzerland, the wealth manager concluded that keeping the funds in Swiss banks or bringing them back to France would be too risky. He suggested that the funds be transferred to Hong-Kong, Singapore, or Uruguay, three tax havens which had not committed to exchange information with France. After the tapes were made public, they were widely commented in French newspapers and eventually the funds were repatriated to France.