As MPs prepare for tomorrow’s debate on the Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Bill, Christian Aid is calling out lobbying supported by the government of the British Virgin Islands.
The charity is responding to a BVI-funded report published last summer as part of lobbying against UK efforts to end corporate secrecy in the tax haven.
At the time, MPs and Peers were considering forcing UK tax havens to reveal who really owns the hundreds of thousands of secret companies they host.
Organisations including Christian Aid, the Tax Justice Network and Global Witness have long argued against the kind of corporate secrecy under scrutiny. It can be used to conceal illicit activity including tax evasion, money laundering and corruption, all of which have direct consequences for some of the poorest countries in the world.
In 2016, the Panama Papers revealed the BVI as the top location for anonymously-owned companies set up by the offshore law firm Mossack Fonseca.
Now, before Tuesday’s Commons debate on the Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Bill which could be used to curb UK tax haven secrecy, Christian Aid is publishing its response to the BVI’s report.
The charity argues that lobbyists for the BVI have “torture[d] the evidence to depict the BVI as a diverse economy, offering real and legitimate financial services and creating value through cross-border investment. None of these claims stands up to scrutiny”.
The pro-BVI report, Creating Value, was produced in June 2017 by London-based Capital Economics.
Christian Aid is publishing its rebuttal - Questionable Values? – to encourage Parliamentarians and policy makers to seriously question the claims that the BVI’s corporate secrecy and no-tax environment is a force for good in the world.
“The BVI report was commissioned by BVI’s finance industry to support the status quo, so its rosy conclusions are hardly surprising,” warned Christian Aid’s Toby Quantrill, one of the report’s authors.
“Unfortunately, Creating Value is difficult to take seriously, from its argument that the BVI is not a tax haven to its highly questionable claim that the BVI provides a ‘substantial net benefit’ to other countries’ economies.”
Christian Aid’s partner organisation Tax Justice Network has already published a scathing response to Creating Value; Christian Aid hopes its report offers a complementary, in-depth critique.
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