Friday, July 08, 2011

This guy is no chicken in the fight against the tax dodging elite

A profile of TJN Director John Christensen is featured in today's Guardian. The article opens by highlighting the momentum of the TJN's work:

Tax Justice Network chief has seen the issue of tax avoidance and havens take off as activists begin to win over public opinion

The article goes on to point out:

Perhaps the easiest way to get a picture of John Christensen's daily life is to imagine him in a (very large) boxing ring. In one corner are ranged the UK government, the global financial services industry, a scattering of other governments, and the richest, most powerful people and corporations in the world. In the other, backed up by a handful of non-governmental organisations and activists, plus a small but growing group of members of the public, is Christensen ... The competition, it is obvious, is not quite equal.

In explaining the beginning of John's work, The Guardian observes:

Christensen himself realised in the 1970s that "holy cow, these tax havens are very important and no one's studying them". To him, it seemed that tax avoidance and tax havens were a real impediment to allowing developing countries to function properly, and also a moral issue for companies in the developed world; for the Jersey-born Christensen, paying a fair amount of tax was the duty of any good citizen.

The article refers to John's interest to rearing chickens, an interest he shares with Anthony Fisher, the British entrepreneur who introduced battery chicken farming to Britain and became massively rich as a consequence. Fisher funded many of the prominent think-tanks around the world which have promoted tax avoidance and financial deregulation.

Those of us fortunate in attending the conference on Debt, Tax and Human Rights this week, held by the Association for Accountancy & Business Affairs and Tax Justice Network, were treated to a presentation on a paper on The Shaping of Offshore, where Fisher's role amongst prominent others promoting havenry was explained. The paper was produced from research for Treasure Islands. As explained on the Treasure Islands blog:
From the “sad and lonely” group Christensen talks about in the Guardian, the Tax Justice Network has grown exponentially, with active research and advocacy chapters in every corner of the world, and many people finally realising the core of the message we put across in Treasure Islands: tax havens are a crucial feature of contemporary financial capitalism, and have played a significant part in incubating the deregulated and detaxed conditions that led to the largest financial market failure since the late nineteenth century.
The article concludes:

But can tax campaigners really make an impact against such huge vested interests? Christensen puts his faith in public support.

"I've always felt we're going to make no progress here at all until we have the tanks on the lawns, with public opinion forcing political change and counterbalancing the extraordinary lobbying efforts in Washington, Brussels, London and so on. We do have a hill to climb. But I don't have the luxury any more of being able to say 'bloody hell, this is too big an issue'."

We like the article. It shows how hard the fight is, yet celebrates how far we've gone towards closing the tax haven gateway to abuse, injustice, crime and poverty - led by the courageous Christensen along with a growing band of colleagues. So, we say a big thank you to all our supporters, and to The Guardian for showcasing our progress against the odds. Let's keep the momentum rolling.


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