Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Offshore secrecy misleads the BBC

From a guest blogger:

The Observer reports that a documentary programme screened last year by the BBC World News channel about the Africa-based carbon credits activities of an organisation linked to a philanthropic capitalist would not have been screened had the BBC been aware of its provenance:

Rockhopper TV, the production company that made the documentary, knew but did not disclose to BBC executives, of links between Envirotrade and the Africa Carbon Livelihood Trust, which funded the making of the documentary. Had it done so, Taking The Credit, the documentary, would never have been shown, the BBC ruled, although it also claimed the programme was balanced. Birley set up and funded the Mauritius-based trust but would not say who its other donors are or how much Rockhopper was paid to make the programme. Envirotrade saw it as a "marketing" opportunity.

Envirotrade, which has ceased trading in London, has its parent company registered in Mauritius, a fully-fledged secrecy jurisdiction and an emerging jurisdiction of choice for African, European and Asian tax evaders.

Secrecy harms society in all sorts of ways, and offshore secrecy is particularly harmful since it provides crooks and spivs with an almost guaranteed degree of immunity from onshore investigators and prosecutors. The lamentable way in which the BBC was duped into screening what was, to all intents and purposes, a marketing promotion disguised as feature journalism, is yet more evidence of the corrosive influence of secrecy jurisdictions. Shame on the BBC for its cosying up to private interests: congrats to The Observer for exposing the story.


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