Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Monsieur le President - ta lutte contre les paradis fiscaux commence ici

The pressure to take action against banks using tax havens is building up into an unstoppable force. In Britain, the Guardian's very influential economics editor, Larry Elliott, has called for UK banks to "close down their tax haven operations at once and repatriate their offshore profits so that they are subject to UK tax." But we have few illusions that either Prime Minister "Crash Gordon" Brown or Chancellor Alastair Darling will take any such action in the very near future.

But across the Channel, political pressures are quite different. President Sarkozy faces a far more powerful political opposition from civil society, and tax havens have become a litmus test of his ability to achieve meaningful reform.

Former French Prime Minister Laurent Fabius has picked up on this theme in an article in Le Monde, in which he argues that the French President should take a lead in acting against tax havens by requiring French banks to cut all links with tax havens. Here is a translation of the relevant section of his article:

"For any reform attempt to be credible, we must lead by example. One absolutely essential area for reform is that of tax havens, and we have a tendency to gloss over the fact that about half of these places are located in Europe. The impact tax havens have on tax justice is scandalous, not to mention economically catastrophic: in effect they act as black holes in the international system, undermining all attempts at reform. Now that public capital has been injected into French banks, I hope that in the coming days these banks will be required to cease all connections with these tax havens. These places only exist thanks to the complicity of various powerful countries. Let our country apply this rule and subsequently propose, in London, that G-20 members follow our example: taking the lead here will persuade more countries that they should change their game."

Hear, hear to that. And can we suggest as a starting point, that the President takes a long-hard look at the Jersey operations of BNP Paribas, based in Saint Helier: http://www.bnpparibas.je/en/home/default.asp

BNP Paribas claims to be the leading 'wealth management' (NewSpeak for tax avoidance) service provider in the French speaking world. Their payroll in Jersey covers several hundred staff. What exactly are they doing there, apart from cheating French taxpayers out of billions of Euro every year?

Here is what they say on their website:

BNP Paribas boasts a long tradition in private banking: our expertise in financial management and investment has served the great entrepreneurs and the foremost names in private investing for more than a century. Through this service, we have formed some very special relationships, relationships which have endured down the generations and through many economic cycles.

Worldwide, BNP Paribas Wealth Management today manages assets valued at more than 140 billion Euros - proof indeed of our clients' confidence in us.We offer you the multidisciplinary, multinational skills of our experts handling multi-faceted investment management. From simple advice on asset acquisition through to under mandate management of your portfolio, BNP Paribas Wealth Management provides a broad spectrum of made-to-measure services designed to meet in full your expectations

No. 1 in France, a leading player worldwide, we have a presence in more than 30 countries, in all the major centres of international private asset management. As a client of BNP Paribas Wealth Management, you benefit from the strength of a group which has at its disposal a global network of the highest calibre and a full complement of human and technical resources. Your investments receive our full attention.

Over to you, Monsieur le President: if you want to lead by example, this is where to begin.


Post a Comment

<< Home