The Malta Independent 29 September 2021, Wednesday

UN expert urges next UN chief to crack down on Malta… and other 'tax havens'

Monday, 24 October 2016, 10:50 Last update: about 6 years ago

A United Nations human rights expert has urged the next UN secretary-general to make the elimination of tax havens a priority to ensure that corporations, billionaires and ‘kleptocrats’ pay their fair share of taxes.

Speaking on Friday, American law professor Alfred de Zayas also urged Antonio Guterres, who will succeed Ban Ki-moon as UN chief on 1 January, to call a world conference on phasing out the offshore havens.

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He said the United Nations “must no longer tolerate the scandal of secrecy jurisdictions that facilitate tax evasion, corruption and money-laundering.”

After presenting his new report to the UN General Assembly, De Zayas told a news conference it is estimated that as much as $32 trillion is held offshore in financial secrecy jurisdictions, avoiding fair taxation.

He said that governments lose $3 trillion every year in tax evasion and tax avoidance schemes “and most perpetrators have enjoyed immunity”.

De Zayas, who is the UN expert on the promotion of a democratic and equitable international order, said the key issue is transparency. “Once you have transparency, tax havens are useless, but the problem is the secrecy jurisdictions,” he said.

His report cited The Tax Justice Network Financial Secrecy Index, which ranks jurisdictions according to their secrecy and the scale of their offshore financial activities.

The top three jurisdictions listed in 2015 were Switzerland, Hong Kong and the United States. Malta is number 27 on the list, but it was still singled out as a high profile tax haven.

Other ‘high-profile jurisdictions’ listed include the United Kingdom and its territories and dependencies, Belgium, Cyprus, Liberia, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, Panama and Singapore.

De Zayas urged the General Assembly to draft a convention to outlaw tax havens worldwide. “The United Nations must take concerted action against abuse and crimes perpetrated by individuals, speculators, hedge funds and transnational enterprises that skirt taxes and loot governments,” he said.

International charity Oxfam found in a recent study that two-thirds of all global offshore wealth – amounting to $12 trillion – is stashed away in EU-related tax havens such as Malta, Luxemburg and Andorra. Oxfam highlighted the three countries in a report that said such tax havens are facilitating the loss of over $100 billion in tax revenue worldwide.

Although the report does not go into specific numbers for Malta, it highlights Malta’s name and also labels it as a tax haven, having used a list of 50 ‘offshore jurisdictions’ established by the US Government Accountability Office.

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