Thursday, February 10, 2011

Lawyers suing the Norwegian state to uphold secrecy

By Sigrid Klæboe Jacobsen, chair of TJN Norway

A Norwegian lawfirm, Thommessen, is suing the tax authorities to stop their client accounts from being exposed. The court case is scheduled for February 14th.

Before Christmas, Thommessen won the right to protect client accounts in a similiar case before the Supreme Court. The heart of the matter is this: the tax authorities discovered that six law firms are the largest actors in channeling money to and from tax havens on behalf of clients. There is no way of knowing if this is money that has been taxed, or connected to other criminal activities.

The law firm argues that they are protected by lawyers' confidentiality. But if Thommessen now again wins in court, it will become even easier to hide money in tax havens undetected.

The combination of the secrecy of tax havens, with the secrecy offered by lawyers, makes a large part of global money transfers completely opaque. Now that we know the harmful effects of this system, lawyer confidentiality should be set aside in these cases. Every case won in the court system will contribute to reinforcing the secrecy. Tax authorities must have the right to information in all transactions where there is reason to believe that the law has been broken.

The way it works today, it is up to the law firms themselves to report on potential illegality. But we can't let this business regulate itself.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Maybe a victory is best- hard to believe the govt would sit on its hands... aggressive response to remove legal ambiguity from the whole area could have wider application

10:38 am  

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