01 July 2021

Shadows and Shell Games: Uncovering an Offshore Business Empire in Zimbabwe

A report published today by The Sentry, “Shadows and Shell Games: Uncovering an Offshore Business Empire in Zimbabwe,” reveals key details of the business practices of controversial businessman and presidential advisor Kudakwashe Tagwirei.

The Sentry’s investigation reveals that Tagwirei, who has been followed by allegations of corruption and cronyism for years, has been using complex corporate structures and seemingly preferential government treatment to build his business empire and enormous wealth. The tycoon now presides over a sprawling network of more than 40 companies spanning the oil, mining, banking, logistics, transportation, and import/export sectors. The report details how Tagwirei has effectively concealed his control over this empire through an elaborate foreign network, hiding his wealth and ownership through offshore financial structures.

29 June 2021

Mauritius: 2021 Article IV Consultation-Press Release; Staff Report; and Statement by the Executive Director for Mauritius

Economic Impact of the Pandemic and Policy Responses. Mauritius has been successful in containing the COVID-19 pandemic thanks to strict health measures but the halt in tourism has significantly affected its tourism-dependent economy. A comprehensive set of stimulus measures to mitigate the economic impact of the pandemic, including a wage subsidy and income support for the self-employed, have provided support to firms and households.

24 June 2021

FIRE Magazine Issue 4 - Q1 2021, Looking Back & Looking Ahead

After the “unprecedented” year that was 2020, Q1 of 2021 has been fast and furious for both ThoughtLeaders4 FIRE and the Asset Recovery Community.

As office doors creak open, wingtips start to hit the pavements and signs of life cautiously return to London, our authors review this quarter with one eye firmly fixed on the future.

Offshore Pilot Quarterly (June 2021, Volume 24 Number 2)

Ignorance and Madness

Trust is Dead

A Time for Reflection and Circumspection

PDF

12 May 2021

NESCAFÉ® Farmers Origins Coffee Capsules

Explore the new NESCAFÉ® Farmers Origins range with coffees from around the world’s coffee belt. Espresso or Lungo? Nutty or fruity? Our farmers have something for everyone. Here’s to the origins that make your coffee taste better.

Africas
Ethiopian and Ugandan farmers carry the legacy of the world’s first coffee beans. These lands were born to grow coffee, and their passionate farmers are keen to do it justice. We give their coffees a strong roast in NESCAFÉ Africas – a sweet cup you won’t quickly forget, it’s bursting with wild berry notes.

3 Americas
Who are the three amigos behind NESCAFÉ Lungo 3 Americas? Costa Rican, Guatemalan and Nicaraguan farmers are the powerhouse behind this cup of goodness. They make the most of the high altitudes, rich soils and varied microclimates to deliver an incredible blend. Nuttiness meets a hint of smokiness in a long cup begging for adventure.

Brazil
From the plains to the highlands, the smallholders to the vast plantations, the old hands to the new visionaries, Brazilian farmers know coffee. You’ll spot the sunshine and the soul in a cup of NESCAFÉ Lungo Brazil. This unbeatably smooth and balanced long cup glows with warming toasted cereal notes.

Colombia
Farmers in Colombia's mountainous region are responsible for the exceptional coffee you get in NESCAFÉ Colombia Decaffeinato. It’s decaffeinated, and still this Arabica blend faithfully delivers the region’s classic fruity coffee character.

India
We love lush, tropical southern India – coffee, spices, and fruit trees all growing in harmony – and the farmers here tend to their crops and their land with dedicated care. You can taste the biodiversity in every sip of NESCAFÉ® Espresso India. It’s an epic blend of hand-picked coffees alive with cocoa and dark roasted notes.

17 March 2021

Z/Yen: The Global Financial Centres Index 29 (GFCI 29)

The twenty-ninth edition of the Global Financial Centres Index (GFCI 29) was published on 17 March 2021. GFCI 29 provides evaluations of future competitiveness and rankings for 114 financial centres around the world. The GFCI serves as a valuable reference for policy and investment decision-makers.

China Development Institute (CDI) in Shenzhen and Z/Yen Partners in London collaborate in producing the GFCI. The GFCI is updated and published every March and September, and receives considerable attention from the global financial community.

126 financial centres were researched for GFCI 29 of which 114 are now in the main index. The GFCI is compiled using 143 instrumental factors. These quantitative measures are provided by third parties including the World Bank, the Economist Intelligence Unit, the OECD and the United Nations.

The instrumental factors are combined with financial centre assessments provided by respondents to the GFCI online questionnaire. GFCI 29 uses 65,507 assessments from 10,774 respondents.

The results of GFCI 29 include:

  • GFCI 29 shows a relatively high level of stability in the top half of the index, with few centres changing 10 or more places in the rankings. In the lower half of the index, there was more volatility, perhaps reflecting some uncertainty about the resilience of emerging and smaller centres.
  • The average rating of centres in the index dropped only 3.5 points (-0.55%) from GFCI 28 (41 points from GFCI 27 to GFCI 28), which may indicate more confidence in the financial system than in the first stages of the covid-19 pandemic.
  • The fact that overall ratings have not recovered to the levels that we saw in 2019 reflects the continuing uncertainty around international trade, the impact of the covid-19 pandemic, and geopolitical and local unrest.
  • Nine of the top 10 centres in the index fell in the ratings, with London and Tokyo falling over 10 points. With the top centres dropping, might this be due to central banks taking the reins during covid-19?

Leading Centres

  • New York retains first place in the index. London fell to only one point ahead of third place Shanghai.
  • Hong Kong moved up a place to fourth, one point behind Shanghai, with Singapore in fifth position. Tokyo dropped three places from fourth to seventh.
  • Frankfurt replaced San Francisco in the top 10 in this edition, gaining seven rank places, perhaps benefiting from the exit of the UK from the European Union.
  • Within the top 30 centres, Vancouver, Seoul, Sydney, Milan, and Stuttgart rose by more than five places.

Western Europe

  • As in GFCI 28, centres in Western Europe had mixed fortunes in GFCI 29, with 12 centres rising in the rankings and 16 falling. However, the average drop in ratings was just 0.63 points (-0.1%) in this region.
  • Berlin entered the index for the first time, ranked 45th.

Asia/Pacific

  • Asia/Pacific Centres also had a mixed performance in GFCI 29, with 14 centres falling in the rankings and 14 rising. The change in average ratings for the region was 2.9 points (0.46%).
  • Globally, Asia/Pacific centres continue to perform well, with six centres in the top 10 globally. Seoul and Sydney rejoined the top 20 in GFCI 29.

North America

  • North American centres showed the least change in the average rating across the regions, falling on average just 0.18 points (-0.03%).
  • Vancouver, Washington DC, Chicago, and San Diego all improved five or more places in the rankings.

Eastern Europe & Central Asia

  • Overall, this region saw average rating increase by 8.5 points (1.51%), with nine of the 16 centres in the region improving their ratings.
  • Moscow, Vilnius, Bratislava, Budapest, and St Petersburg rose five places or more in the rankings.

Middle East & Africa

  • Seven centres in the Middle East & Africa improved their ratings in GFCI 29 with Bahrain, Kuwait City, and Tehran improving five or more rank places.
  • The average rating in the region rose 9.92 points (1.67%).

Latin America & The Caribbean

  • Nine centres rose in the ratings in Latin America & The Caribbean after significant falls in GFCI 28. The average rating in the region rose 11.2 points (1.97%).
  • British Virgin Islands, Barbados, and Santiago gained more than 10 places in the rankings.
  • Trinidad & Tobago and Bogota entered the index, ranking 97th and 100th respectively.

FinTech

  • We are able to rate 105 centres on their Fintech offering.
  • New York continues to lead the FinTech ranking, followed by Shanghai, Beijing, Shenzhen, and London.
  • Tel Aviv and Los Angeles enter the top 10.

31 January 2021

Nespresso Special Reserve Jamaica Blue Mountain Limited Edition

 Nespresso Jamaica Blue Mountain Special Reserve

Jamaica’s Blue Mountains – steep slopes, volcanic soils, and island mists – are ideal Arabica terroir. This controlled designation of origin ships their treasured beans in iconic handmade wood barrels. The exotic woody and rich spice notes of this rare crop make JAMAICA BLUE MOUNTAIN worthy of its protected name.

ORIGIN

Arabica bean from the steep slopes and volcanic soils of Jamaica’s Blue Mountains.

ROASTING

The treasured Jamaica Blue Mountain beans get a split roast. Both splits are darker roasts – it develops intensity while balancing the flavor. The second split takes a little longer and that builds the coffee’s intensity without pushing the bitter note too far.

AROMATIC PROFILE

Exotic woody notes mark this Limited Edition espresso. This Jamaican treasure carries a pleasantly spicy aftertaste – hints of pepper, cinnamon and nutmeg lingering long after the last sip.

20 November 2020

TJN - $427bn lost to tax havens every year: landmark study reveals countries’ losses and worst offenders

Countries are losing a total of over $427 billion in tax each year to international corporate tax abuse and private tax evasion, costing countries altogether the equivalent of nearly 34 million nurses’ annual salaries every year – or one nurse’s annual salary every second. As pandemic-fatigued countries around the world struggle to cope with second and third waves of coronavirus, a ground-breaking study published today reveals for the first time how much public funding each country loses to global tax abuse and identifies the countries most responsible for others’ losses. In a series of joint national and regional launch events around the world, economists, unions and campaigners are urging governments to immediately enact long-delayed tax reform measures in order to clamp down on global tax abuse and reverse the inequalities and hardships exacerbated by tax losses.

The inaugural edition of the State of Tax Justice – an annual report by the Tax Justice Network on the state of global tax abuse and governments’ efforts to tackle it, published today together with global union federation Public Services International and the Global Alliance for Tax Justice – is the first study to measure thoroughly how much every country loses to both corporate tax abuse and private tax evasion, marking a giant leap forward in tax transparency.

While previous studies on the scale of global corporate tax abuse have had to contest with the fog of financial secrecy surrounding multinational corporations’ tax affairs, the State of Tax Justice analyses data that was self-reported by multinational corporations to tax authorities and recently published by the OECD, allowing the report authors to directly measure tax losses arising from observable corporate tax abuse. The data, referred to as country by country reporting data, is a transparency measure first proposed by the Tax Justice Network in 2003. After nearly two decades of campaigning, the data was made available to the public by the OECD in July 2020 – although only after multinational corporations’ data was aggregated and anonymised.

Of the $427 billion in tax lost each year globally to tax havens, the State of Tax Justice 2020 reports that $245 billion is directly lost to corporate tax abuse by multinational corporations and $182 billion to private tax evasion. Multinational corporations paid billions less in tax than they should have by shifting $1.38 trillion worth of profit out of the countries where they were generated and into tax havens, where corporate tax rates are extremely low or non-existent. Private tax evaders paid less tax than they should have by storing a total of over $10 trillion in financial assets offshore.

Poorer countries are hit harder by global tax abuse

While higher income countries lose more tax to global tax abuse, the State of Tax Justice 2020 shows that tax losses bear much greater consequences in lower income countries. Higher income countries altogether lose over $382 billion every year whereas lower income countries lose $45 billion. However, lower income countries’ tax losses are equivalent to nearly 52 per cent of their combined public health budgets, whereas higher income countries’ tax losses are equivalent to 8 per cent of their combined public health budgets. Similarly, lower income countries lose the equivalent of 5.8 per cent of the total tax revenue they typically collect a year to global tax abuse whereas higher income countries on average lose 2.5 per cent.

The same pattern of global inequality is also strongly visible when comparing regions in the global north and south. North America and Europe lose over $95 billion in tax and over $184 billion respectively, while Latin America and Africa lose over $43 billion and over $27 billion respectively. However, North America and Europe’s tax losses are equivalent to 5.7 per cent and 12.6 per cent of the regions’ public health budgets respectively, while Latin America and Africa’s tax losses are equivalent to 20.4 per cent and 52.5 per cent of the regions’ public health budgets respectively.

Rich countries are responsible for almost all global tax losses

Assessing which countries are most responsible for global tax abuse, the State of Tax Justice 2020 provides the strongest evidence to date that the greatest enablers of global tax abuse are the rich countries at the heart of the global economy and their dependencies – not the countries that appear on the EU’s highly politicised tax haven blacklist or the small palm-fringed islands of popular belief. Higher income countries are responsible for 98 per cent of countries’ tax losses, costing countries around the world over $419 billion in lost tax every year while lower income countries are responsible for just 2 per cent, costing countries over $8 billion in lost tax every year.

The five jurisdictions most responsible for countries’ tax losses are British Territory Cayman (responsible for 16.5 per cent of global tax losses, equal to over $70 billion), the UK (10 per cent; over $42 billion), the Netherlands (8.5 per cent; over $36 billion), Luxembourg (6.5 per cent; over $27 billion) and the US (5.53 per cent; over $23 billion).

G20 countries meeting tomorrow responsible for over a quarter or global tax losses

G20 member countries meeting this weekend for the Leaders’ Summit 2020 are collectively responsible for 26.7 per cent of global tax losses, costing countries over $114 billion in lost tax every year. The G20 countries themselves also lose over $290 billion each year.

In 2013, the G20 mandated the OECD to require collection of the country by country reporting data analysed by the State of Tax Justice 2020 – a measure the OECD had long resisted until then. In 2020, the OECD’s consultation on country by country reporting highlighted two major demands from investors, civil society and leading experts: that the technical standard be replaced with the far more robust Global Reporting Initiative standard, and – crucially – that the data be made public.

The Tax Justice Network is calling on the G20 heads of state summit this weekend to require the publication of individual multinationals’ country by country reporting, so that corporate tax abusers and the jurisdictions that facilitate them can be identified and held to account.

Alex Cobham, chief executive of the Tax Justice Network, said:

A global tax system that loses over $427 billion a year is not a broken system, it’s a system programmed to fail. Under pressure from corporate giants and tax haven powers like the Netherlands and the UK’s network, our governments have programmed the global tax system to prioritise the desires of the wealthiest corporations and individuals over the needs of everybody else. The pandemic has exposed the grave cost of turning tax policy into a tool for indulging tax abusers instead of for protecting people’s wellbeing.

Now more than ever we must reprogramme our global tax system to prioritise people’s health and livelihoods over the desires of those bent on not paying tax. We’re calling on governments to introduce an excess profit tax on large multinational corporations that have been short-changing countries for years, targeting those whose profits have soared during the pandemic while local businesses have been forced into lockdown. For the digital tech giants who claim to have our best interests at heart while having abused their way out of billions in tax, this can be their redemption tax. A wealth tax alongside this would ensure that those with the broadest shoulders contribute as they should at this critical time.

Rosa Pavanelli, general secretary at Public Services International, said:

The reason frontline health workers face missing PPE and brutal understaffing is because our governments spent decades pursuing austerity and privatisation while enabling corporate tax abuse. For many workers, seeing these same politicians now “clapping” for them is an insult. Growing public anger must be channelled into real action: making corporations and the mega rich finally pay their fair share to build back better public services.

When tax departments are downsized and wages cut, corporations and billionaires find it even easier to swindle money away from our public services and into their offshore bank accounts. This is of course no accident; many politicians have wilfully sent the guards home. The only way to fund the long-term recovery is by making sure our tax authorities have the power and support they need to stop corporations and the mega rich from not paying their fair share. The wealth exists to keep our societies functioning, our vulnerable alive and our businesses afloat: we just need to stop it flowing offshore.

Let’s be clear. The reason corporations and the mega rich abuse billions in taxes isn’t because they’re innovative. They do it because they know politicians will let them get away with it. Now that we’ve seen the brutal results, our leaders must stop the billions flowing out of public services and into offshore accounts, or risk fuelling cynicism and distrust in government.

Dr Dereje Alemayehu, executive coordinator at the Global Alliance for Tax Justice, said:

The State of Tax Justice 2020 captures global inequality in soberingly stark numbers. Lower income countries lose more than half what they spend on public health every year to tax havens – that’s enough to cover the annual salaries of nearly 18 million nurses every year. The OECD’s failure to deliver meaningful reforms to global tax rules in recent years, despite the repeated declaration of good will, makes it clear that the task was impossible for a club of rich countries. With today’s data showing that OECD countries are collectively responsible for nearly half of all global tax losses, the task was also clearly an inappropriate one for a club heavily mixed up in global tax havenry.

We must establish a UN tax convention to usher in global tax reforms. Only by moving the process for setting global tax standards to the UN can we make sure that international tax governance is transparent and democratic and our global tax system genuinely fair and equitable, respecting the taxing rights of developing countries.

Country cases of tax losses

  • Tax abuse in Vietnam causes as much economic loss as Typhoon Molave

Typhoon Molave, described by Vietnamese Deputy Prime Minister Trinh Dinh Dung as “one of the two most powerful storms Vietnam has had in the past 20 years,” destroyed more than 700 houses and left 80 people dead and missing in October 2020. The Vietnamese government estimates Typhoon Molave to have caused $430 million in economic damage. Vietnam loses nearly as much tax, over $420 million (97 per cent of $430 billion), every year to global tax abuse.

  • South Africa’s tax losses could lift over 3 million people out of poverty

Nearly half of South Africa’s adult population lives in poverty, with more women (52 per cent) in poverty, than men (46 per cent). The latest upper-bound poverty line published by the South African government in 2019 is ZAR 1,227 per month (almost $85 per month). If the $3.39 billion in tax that South Africa loses every year to tax abuse was instead given as direct cash transfers of $85 per month to people living in poverty, over 3 million people could be lifted out of poverty.

  • Greece’s tax losses equal to over a quarter of scheduled debt repayments

Greece’s annual loss of nearly $1.36 billion in tax (€1.15 billion) to tax abuse is equivalent to over a quarter (27 per cent) of Greece’s scheduled debt repayments for 2020, which total €4.19 billion. Among the multiple debtors Greece owes, the country is specifically scheduled to repay €443.7m to Eurozone countries in 2020. Greece’s annual tax losses are over double this amount.

Responsibility for global tax losses

  • The UK spider’s web is responsible for over a third of global tax losses

The jurisdiction that causes countries the most global tax losses is British Overseas Territory Cayman, which is responsible for other countries losing over $70 billion in tax every year. However, Cayman is just one jurisdiction that falls under UK’s network of Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies, where the UK has full powers to impose or veto lawmaking and where power to appoint key government officials rests with the British Crown. Infamously referred to as the UK spider’s web, extensive research has documented the ways in which this network of jurisdictions operates as a web of tax havens facilitating corporate and private tax abuse, at the centre of which sits the City of London.

The State of Tax Justice 2020 finds that the UK spider’s web is responsible for 37.4 per cent of all tax losses suffered by countries around the world, costing countries over $160 billion in lost tax every year.

  • The “axis of tax avoidance” is responsible for over half of the world’s tax losses

The Corporate Tax Haven Index 2019 had previously estimated that the UK, together with its network of Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies, Luxembourg, Switzerland and the Netherlands are together responsible for half of the world’s risk of corporate tax abuse, coining the label “axis of tax avoidance” for the group. The Tax Justice Network revealed in April 2020 that the axis of tax avoidance costs the EU over $27 billion in lost tax every year solely from US multinational corporations operating in the EU.

The State of Tax Justice Network confirms today that the axis of tax avoidance is collectively responsible for over 47.6 per cent of global tax loss incurred from corporate tax abuse. When including tax losses to private tax evasion, the axis of tax avoidance is responsible for 55 per cent of all tax losses suffered by countries around the world, costing countries nearly $237 billion in lost tax every year.

  • EU blacklisted jurisdictions cause less than 2% of global tax losses, EU member states cause 36%

Analysis of the jurisdictions on the EU tax haven blacklist found the cohort to be collectively responsible for just 1.72 per cent of global tax losses, costing countries over $7 billion in lost tax a year. In comparison, EU member states are responsible for 36 per cent of global tax losses, costing countries over $154 billion in lost tax every year.

The Tax Justice Network has long criticised the EU’s blacklist for ignoring major tax havens while focusing on jurisdictions that are secretive but play an insignificant role in the global economy. The State of Tax Justice 2020 reveals that two jurisdictions blacklisted by the EU, Palau and Trinidad and Tobago, while non-cooperative with international tax regulations, did not create any observable tax losses for other countries.

On the other hand, British Territory Cayman which was briefly blacklisted for the first time in February 2020 but removed from the list in October 2020 after it was deemed compliant with international tax rules, is responsible for the biggest share of countries’ tax losses (16.5 per cent of global tax losses, equal to over $70 billion a year). The Tax Justice Network argues that Cayman being deemed to be compliant with international tax rules despite being the world’s greatest enabler of global tax abuse is evidence that current international tax rules are not fit for purpose.

Three actions governments must take

The Tax Justice Network, Public Services International and the Global Alliance for Tax Justice, along with supporting NGOs, campaigners and experts around the world, are together calling on governments to take three actions to tackle global tax abuse:

  • Introduce an excess profit tax on multinational corporations making excess profits during the pandemic, such as global digital companies, in order to cut through profit shifting abuses. Multinational corporations’ excess profit would be identified at the global level, not the national level, to prevent corporations from underreporting their profits by shifting them into tax havens, and taxed using a unitary tax method.
  • Introduction of a wealth tax to fund the Covid-19 response and address the long term inequalities the pandemic has exacerbated, with punitive rates for opaquely owned offshore assets and a commitment between governments to eliminate this opacity. The pandemic has already seen an explosion in the asset values of the wealthy, even as unemployment has soared to record levels in many countries.
  • Establish a UN tax convention to ensure a global and genuinely representative forum to set consistent, multilateral standards for corporate taxation, for the necessary tax cooperation between governments, and to deliver comprehensive, multilateral tax transparency.

27 October 2020

Transparency International EU reveals the murky tax affairs of Europe’s biggest banks

New research by the anti-corruption watchdog Transparency International EU (TI EU) on the tax affairs of some of Europe’s largest banks from 2015 to 2019 suggests widespread use of tax havens and profit shifting. The findings have been published today on TI EU’s Corporate Tax Tracker platform and analysed in the new report “Murky havens and phantom profits: the tax affairs of EU and UK banks”.

Among the 39 EU and UK banks looked at in the study, 31 were using low-tax or zero-tax havens, while 29 of them appeared to be declaring high profits in countries where they did not actually employ any staff. These ‘ghost operations’ may indicate that banks are shifting their profits to reduce their tax bill. Without full details on banks’ operations in the countries concerned it is impossible to tell,

Several banks discussed in the research, including HSBC, Barclays, Deutsche Bank and Standard Chartered, were implicated in the recent FinCEN scandal, which alleged their involvement in moving dirty money across the globe.

The questionable practices highlighted by our research are still escaping full public scrutiny,” said Elena Gaita, senior policy officer at Transparency International EU. “For instance, in the last five years, HSBC reported €1.59 billion of profits in Saudi Arabia, despite not having a single employee in the country. Likewise, Deutsche Bank made €418 million from its Maltese operation, which has been unstaffed since 2016. European economies are on their knees because of the pandemic, so it’s now more important than ever that banks and other multinational companies are seen to pay their fair share of tax.

Since 2015, EU banks have been required to publish country-by-country reports of their profits, taxes and number of employees for every jurisdiction in which they operate. The banking and extractives sectors are the only industries that are subject to such regulations.

The researchers analysed five years’ worth of these reports and used the data to build an online platform, the Corporate Tax Tracker, which will enable closer public scrutiny of major banks.

We were only able to scrutinise the tax behaviour of banks because they are subject to EU public country-by-country tax reporting rules,” explained Gaita. “This is probably just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to aggressive tax planning, so it is essential that these rules are extended to other sectors of the economy. The EU member states that are still blocking this legislation should put the interests of their citizens and their economic well-being over the interests of large companies, especially in these times of economic uncertainty.

The current German EU Council Presidency has an opportunity to ensure that Member States finally adopt a position on public country-by-country reporting rules for large companies, so we are calling on them to include it in the upcoming Competitiveness Council meeting.

12 October 2020

OECD/G20 Inclusive Framework on BEPS invites public input on the Reports on Pillar One and Pillar Two Blueprints

As part of the ongoing work to develop a solution to the tax challenges of the digitalisation of the economy, the OECD/G20 Inclusive Framework on BEPS is seeking public comments on the Reports on Pillar One and Pillar Two Blueprints.

The top priority of the OECD/G20 Inclusive Framework on BEPS (Inclusive Framework) has been to develop a solution to the tax challenges of the digitalisation of the economy. On 12 October 2020, the Inclusive Framework released a package consisting of the Report on the Pillar One Blueprint and the Report on the Pillar Two Blueprint. These Blueprints reflect the convergent views on many of the key policy features, principles and parameters of both Pillars, and identify remaining technical and administrative issues as well as policy issues where divergent views among Inclusive Framework members remain to be bridged.

The Inclusive Framework welcomes stakeholder input on the Blueprints and will hold public consultation meetings on them in January 2021. This will assist members of the Inclusive Framework in further refining the package and addressing remaining issues. To help focus the input of stakeholders, the public consultation document sets out a series of questions for each of the Pillars.

28 September 2020

UNCTAD: Africa could gain $89 billion annually by curbing illicit financial flows

Every year, an estimated $88.6 billion, equivalent to 3.7% of Africa’s GDP, leaves the continent as illicit capital flight, according to UNCTAD’s Economic Development in Africa Report 2020.

Illicit financial flows (IFFs) are movements of money and assets across borders which are illegal in source, transfer or use, according to the report entitled “Tackling illicit financial flows for sustainable development in Africa.”

It shows that these outflows are nearly as much as the combined total annual inflows of official development assistance, valued at $48 billion, and yearly foreign direct investment, pegged at $54 billion, received by African countries – the average for 2013 to 2015.

Illicit financial flows rob Africa and its people of their prospects, undermining transparency and accountability and eroding trust in African institutions,” said UNCTAD Secretary-General Mukhisa Kituyi.

These outflows include illicit capital flight, tax and commercial practices like mis-invoicing of trade shipments and criminal activities such as illegal markets, corruption or theft. 

From 2000 to 2015, the total illicit capital flight from Africa amounted to $836 billion. Compared to Africa’s total external debt stock of $770 billion in 2018, this makes Africa a “net creditor to the world”, the report says.

IFFs related to the export of extractive commodities ($40 billion in 2015) are the largest component of illicit capital flight from Africa. Although estimates of IFFs are large, they likely understate the problem and its impact.

IFFs undermine Africa’s potential to achieve the SDGs

IFFs represent a major drain on capital and revenues in Africa, undermining productive capacity and Africa’s prospects for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

For example, the report finds that, in African countries with high IFFs, governments spend 25% less than countries with low IFFs on health and 58% less on education. Since women and girls often have less access to health and education, they suffer most from the negative fiscal effects of IFFs.

Africa will not be able to bridge the large financing gap to achieve the SDGs, estimated at $200 billion per year, with existing government revenues and development assistance.

The report finds that tackling capital flight and IFFs represents a large potential source of capital to finance much-needed investments in, for example, infrastructure, education, health, and productive capacity.

For example, in Sierra Leone, which has one of the highest under-five mortality rates on the continent (105 per 1,000 live births in 2018), curbing capital flight and investing a constant share of revenues in public health could save an additional 2,322 of the 258,000 children born in the country annually.

In Africa, IFFs originate mainly from extractive industries and are therefore associated with poor environmental outcomes.

The report shows that curbing illicit capital flight could generate enough capital by 2030 to finance almost 50% of the $2.4 trillion needed by sub-Saharan African countries for climate change adaptation and mitigation.

IFFs are concentrated in high-value, low-weight commodities, especially gold

The report’s analysis also demonstrates that IFFs in Africa are not endemic to specific countries, but rather to certain high-value, low-weight commodities.

Of the estimated $40 billion of IFFs derived from extractive commodities in 2015, 77% were concentrated in the gold supply chain, followed by diamonds (12%) and platinum (6%).

This finding offers new insights for researchers and policymakers studying how to identify and curb IFFs and is relevant to all gold-exporting countries in Africa, for example, despite their differing local conditions.

The report aims to equip African governments with knowledge on how to identify and evaluate risks associated with IFFs, as well as solutions to curb IFFs and redirect the proceeds towards the achievement of national priorities and the SDGs.

It calls for global efforts to promote international cooperation to combat IFFs. It also advocates for strengthening good practices on the return of assets to foster sustainable development and the achievement of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Need to collect better trade data to detect risks related to IFFs

Specific data limitations affected efforts to estimate IFFs. Only 45 out of 53 African countries provide data to the UN International Trade Statistics Database (UN Comtrade) in a continuous manner allowing trade statistics to be compared over time.  

The report highlights the importance of collecting more and better trade data to detect risks related to IFFs, increase transparency in extractive industries and tax collection.

The UNCTAD Automated System for Customs Data (ASYCUDA), including its new module for mineral production and export, called MOSES (Mineral Output Statistical Evaluation System), are potential available solutions.

African countries also need to enter automatic exchange of tax information agreements to effectively tackle IFFs.

Africa should improve regional cooperation on IFFs and tax

Although IFFs are a major constraint to domestic resource mobilization in Africa, African governments are not yet sufficiently engaging in the reform of the international taxation system.

Transparency and cooperation between tax administrations globally and within the continent is key to the fight against tax evasion and tax avoidance.

Regarding regional cooperation on taxation within the continent, the African Tax Administration Forum can provide a platform for regional cooperation among African countries.

Regional knowledge networks to enhance national capacities to tackle proceeds of money laundering and recover stolen assets, including within the context of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), are crucial in the fight against corruption and crime-related IFFs, the report says.

Tackling IFFs requires international action

Tax revenues lost to IFFs are especially costly for Africa, where public investments and spending on the SDGs are most lacking. In 2014, Africa lost an estimated $9.6 billion to tax havens, equivalent to 2.5% of total tax revenue.

Tax evasion is at the core of the world's shadow financial system. Commercial IFFs are often linked to tax avoidance or evasion strategies, designed to shift profits to lower-tax jurisdictions.

Due to the lack of domestic transfer pricing rules in most African countries, local judicial authorities lack the tools to challenge tax evasion by multinational enterprises.

But IFFs are not just a national concern in Africa. Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari said: “Illicit financial flows are multidimensional and transnational in character. Like the concept of migration, they have countries of origin and destination, and there are several transit locations. The whole process of mitigating illicit financial flows, therefore, cuts across several jurisdictions.

Solutions to the problem must involve international tax cooperation and anti-corruption measures. The international community should devote more resources to tackle IFFs, including capacity-building for tax and customs authorities in developing countries.

African countries need to strengthen engagement in international taxation reform, make tax competition consistent with protocols of the AfCFTA and aim for more taxing rights.

27 September 2020

Raconteur: Understanding Pensions 2020

With the number of retirees set to surge, what impact could this have on the global economy and the pension industry? The Understanding Pensions special report explores how to cope with the pensioner boom, investing with conscience and impact, master trusts, and more. It also features an infographic on if the auto-enrolment scheme has worked to close pension gaps.

25 September 2020

Z/Yen: The Global Financial Centres Index 28 (GFCI 28)

The twenty-eighth edition of the Global Financial Centres Index (GFCI 28) was published on 25 September 2020. GFCI 28 provides evaluations of future competitiveness and rankings for 111 major financial centres around the world. The GFCI serves as a valuable reference for policy and investment decision-makers.

China Development Institute (CDI) in Shenzhen and Z/Yen Partners in London collaborate in producing the GFCI. The GFCI is updated and published every March and September, and receives considerable attention from the global financial community.

121 financial centres were researched for GFCI 28 of which 111 are now in the main index. The GFCI is compiled using 138 instrumental factors. These quantitative measures are provided by third parties including the World Bank, the Economist Intelligence Unit, the OECD and the United Nations.

The instrumental factors are combined with financial centre assessments provided by respondents to the GFCI online questionnaire. GFCI 28 uses 54,509 assessments from 8,549 respondents.

The Results Of GFCI 28 Include:

  • GFCI 28 again shows a relatively high level of volatility, with 23 centres rising ten or more places in the rankings and 20 falling ten or more places.
  • Overall, the average rating of centres in the index dropped over 41 points (6.25%) from GFCI 27, which may indicate a more general lack of confidence in finance during a time of continuing uncertainty around international trade, the impact of the covid-19 pandemic on individual economies, and geopolitical and local unrest.
  • All of the top ten centres in the index increased their ratings in GFCI 28, reversing recent trends. Of the next 40 centres, 12 improved their rating while 27 fell. This may indicate increased confidence in leading centres during the covid-19 pandemic.

Leading Centres

  • New York retains its first place in the index, although London in second place has made up ground in the ratings, now only four points behind the leader (27 points in GFCI 27).
  • Shanghai moved up one place to third and Tokyo dropped one place to fourth, although only one point separates them in the ratings. Similarly, Hong Kong moved up a place to rank fifth and Singapore fell one place to sixth, again with only one point separating Hong Kong and Singapore in the ratings.
  • Shenzhen and Zurich entered the top ten in this edition, replacing Los Angeles and Geneva.
  • Within the top 30 centres, Luxembourg, Boston, Seoul, and Madrid rose by more than five places.

Western Europe

  • After its strong performance in GFCI 27, centres in Western Europe had mixed fortunes in GFCI 28, with 15 centres rising in the rankings and 12 falling. However, the average drop in ratings was only 21 points (3.17%) in this region.

Asia/Pacific

  • Asia/Pacific Centres had a mixed performance in GFCI 28, with ten centres falling in the rankings and 14 rising. This appears to reflect levels of confidence in the stability of Asian centres and in their approach to sustainable finance, which appears to be growing in its effect on the overall rating of centres.
  • Taipei, Chengdu, and Qingdao all rose more than 30 places in the rankings.

North America

  • North American centres showed the least change in ratings across the regions, falling on average just 9 points (1.3%).
  • Boston, Washington DC, and San Diego all improved five or more places in the rankings.
  • Six out of the eleven North American centres are in the top 20, up from four in GFCI 27.

Eastern Europe & Central Asia

  • Following a good performance in ratings in GFCI 27, all centres in this region saw their ratings fall, and only three of the 16 centres in the region—Moscow, Istanbul, and Athens—improved their rank.
  • Sofia, Baku, and Almaty fell over 30 ranking places from GFCI 27 to GFCI 28.

Middle East & Africa

  • All 13 Centres in the Middle East & Africa performed poorly once again, with all 13 centres falling in the ratings and with only Abu Dhabi, Mauritius and Cape Town improving in the rankings.

Latin America & The Caribbean

  • While all centres in this region fell in the ratings, with the average rating for the region falling 54 points (8.66%).

FinTech

  • New York leads the FinTech rankings, followed by Beijing, Shanghai, London, and Shenzhen. Five of the top ten centres for FinTech are Chinese.
  • In our recently published Smart Centres Index, focusing more broadly on innovation and technology, Chinese centres did not feature as strongly as they have in the Fintech rankings. This suggests a particular focus on Fintech in these centres.

24 September 2020

FACTI Panel - Tax abuse, money laundering and corruption plague global finance

Governments must do more to tackle tax abuse and corruption in global finance, says a panel of former heads of state and government, past central bank governors, business and civil society leaders and prominent academics.

The findings come in an interim report published today by the High-Level Panel on International Financial Accountability, Transparency and Integrity for Achieving the 2030 Agenda (FACTI Panel), established by the 74th President of the UN General Assembly and the 75th President of the UN Economic and Social Council.

The report says governments can’t agree on the problem or the solution, while resources that could help the world’s poor are being drained by tax abuse, corruption and financial crime. Estimates include:

  • $500 billion losses to governments each year from profit-shifting enterprises;
  • $7 trillion in private wealth hidden in haven countries, with 10% of world GDP held offshore;
  • Money laundering of around $1.6 trillion per year, or 2.7% of global GDP.

Global finance controls haven’t kept pace with a globalized, digitalized world. The FinCen Files involving $2 trillion of transactions revealed this week how some of the biggest banks have allowed criminals to move dirty money around the world. They are the latest reports from investigative journalists showing the system to regulate dirty money has major gaps.

Corruption and tax avoidance are rampant. Too many banks are in cahoots and too many governments are stuck in the past. We’re all being robbed, especially the world’s poor,” said Dr. Dalia Grybauskaitė, FACTI co-chair and former president of Lithuania. “Trust in the finance system is essential to tackle big issues like poverty, climate change and COVID-19. Instead we get dithering and delay bordering on complicity,” she said.

Criminals have exploited the pandemic, says the report, as governments relaxed controls to speed up healthcare and social protection. “Our weakness in tackling corruption and financial crime has been further exposed by the COVID-19,” said Dr. Ibrahim Mayaki, FACTI co-chair and ex-prime minister of Niger. “Resources to stop the spread, keep people alive and put food on tables are instead lost to corruption and abuse,” he said.

The FACTI Panel calls for a more coherent and equitable approach to international tax cooperation, including taxing the digital economy, and more balanced cooperation on settling disputes.

A launch event for the interim report will bring the FACTI Panel chairs together with high-level representatives from Member States. The Panel hopes the interim report will generate debate among policymakers and consensus on recommendations to be included in a final report to be published in February 2021.