Targeting Oligarchs: How to End Financial Secrecy and Tax Abuses
- 1 Apr - 1 Apr
- Geneva, Switzerland
13:00 - 14:30 CEST
The Financial Transparency Coalition (FTC), the Independent Commission for the Reform of International Corporate Taxation (ICRICT) and Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES) are pleased to invite you to a virtual event on
Friday, 1st April 2022 at 13:00-14:30 CET simultaneous English-Spanish interpretation
Interactive high-level panel discussion on offshore wealth and whether the Russian invasion in Ukraine will open the way for systematic transparency reforms to prevent financial secrecy and tax abuses, making all assets more traceable in public registries.
The Russian invasion in Ukraine has highlighted the role of Russian kleptocrats linked funneling billions of dollars out of the country and investing them in London and other major global financial centres. Russian oligarchs are believed to hold at least $1 trillion in wealth abroad according to some estimates, often hidden in offshore companies whose true ownership is hard to determine.
In a bid to undermine Russia’s war effort, the US, European Commission, France, Germany, Italy, UK, and Canada announced the launch of a transatlantic task force now titled a Task Force on KleptoCapture against Russian oligarchs and officials close to the Kremlin and their enablers, aiming to identify and freeze their assets held in their jurisdictions. The name of the task force’s name suggests it could go beyond Russian kleptocrats fuelling the Ukraine war and focus on all illicit financial flows that disproportionately harm countries in the global South.
Indeed, the recent Suisse secrets investigation led by the Offshore Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP), showed that Credit Suisse handled $100 billion in hidden wealth of over 18,000 of clients linked to corruption, tax evasion, money laundering, mainly from Venezuela, Egypt and Ukraine. Earlier, the Pandora Papers investigation showed that hundreds of public officials in 90 countries used shell company schemes to hide wealth offshore, again with a disproportionate impact of these hidden funds being from global South countries.
Tackling offshore secrecy and tax abuses has never been more urgent than today as the Russian invasion of Ukraine has caused a humanitarian crisis, with millions of refugees fleeing to neighbouring countries. Also according to Oxfam, as many as 28 million people across East Africa alone face severe food insecurity due to higher food prices as a result of the conflict– on top of the additional 150 million people already pushed to extreme poverty worldwide due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Amid this crisis, a year ago, the UN Financial Accountability, Transparency and Integrity (FACTI) panel proposed to overhaul the financial system, fight tax abuses and other financial crimes and generate a fair global tax system. The report was welcomed after a vote in a UN General Assembly resolution in December 2021. Similarly, the African Union back in 2015 endorsed the findings of the UNECA High-Level Panel on illicit financial flows from Africa (known as the Mbeki Panel) with the ‘Stop it! Track-It! Get It!’ slogan.
Could the Ukraine war become a historic turning point and prompt major financial transparency reforms as recommended by the UN FACTI panel and the Mbeki Panel? Or will reforms be limited to finding and freezing the assets of Russian oligarchs? What can we expect now in the global fight against tax abuses and secrecy?
Jose Antonio Ocampo, ICRICT chair and Professor at Columbia University
Don Deya, CEO, Pan African Lawyers Union (PALU)
Theresa Neef, Research fellow, EU Tax Observatory
Sebastian Fiedler, German MP and former chairman of the Association of German Criminal Investigators
Paul Massaro, Paul Massaro, senior policy advisor for counter-corruption and sanctions, US Helsinki Commission
Moderator: Eryn Schornick, financial transparency expert