Monday, October 20, 2008

Banking specialist advocates tax haven attack

French media is filling up with stories about how tax havens are at the root of the current economic crisis. This follows our Guardian article, laying out the facts, and more statements over the weekend.

We've had more statements from the French Prime Minister, among others (see the updates at the bottom of our earlier blog) and we now have this from Daniel Leb├Ęgue, former vice chairman of BNP bank, former head of Treasury Office, among many other posts, and he is currently chairman of Transparency International France. He's not a politician, but instead has deep experience in the industry. He's given an interview here (in French, with a decent English translation here.)

"If the international community wants to regain control of the financial system, increasing monitoring of players and promoting international cooperation, then it must address this "black hole" of finance that has built up underground, in the offshore financial centers.

These places condone or facilitate money-laundering operations from criminal activities. But they also facilitate or contribute to the diversion of huge sums produced by other capital investments. They also deprive states of resources. Moreover, as the current crisis develops, these centres and the actors they host constitute a major systemic risk for all global finance."

He also proposes some specific actions:

"Listed companies and financial sector companies, banks and insurance companies, should disclose in their annual reports about their activities in offshore financial centres: how they are controlled, and what audit systems are in place. In these documents, they should be able to explain to shareholders why they work in these centers and what precautions they take, in the absence of organized control.

In addition, we request that banks and financial players housed in these centers offshore have no access to procedures support or guarantees provided by governments."

Agreed. The first of these recommendations could, but doesn't necessarily, involve country by country reporting (French translation here, German one here.) Let's hope that he's making that recommendation.


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