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Panama Papers explode UK excuses for tolerating secrecy in its tax havens

4 April 2016 - The Panama Papers have exploded any remaining excuses the UK had for allowing secrecy in its tax havens, Christian Aid says today.

“This leak exposes the extent to which UK tax havens and UK-based intermediaries are at the very heart of this rotten system,” said Toby Quantrill, Christian Aid’s Principal Economic Justice Adviser.
“David Cameron will host a major anti-corruption summit next month and the Panama Papers have exploded any remaining excuses the UK had for tolerating secrecy in the many tax havens it controls – the British Virgin Islands, Caymans and Bermuda among them. The Prime Minister has a month to sort this out if he wishes to host this anti-corruption conference without his credibility being called into question.
“The UK and its Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies are together the world’s largest tax haven, according to research by the Tax Justice Network.
“The Prime Minister has the power to clean up a major chunk of the global financial system, and in the light of the Panama Papers, he should use it. The UK must take immediate steps to reveal the real owners of business in the territories that we control so the public can know the truth.
“The UK must also lead a process to ensure that tax authorities in developing countries get the information they need to tax their wealthy citizens. The UK simply cannot continue to provide cover for the rich and powerful who wish to operate in the shadows.”
The Panama Papers released by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists show the British Virgin Islands is by far the most popular location for the companies exposed in the leaked papers. In addition, the UK is second only to Hong Kong as the host of the banks and law firms which have facilitated the whole corrupt and criminal business.
One aspect of financial secrecy that does not always receive the level of attention that it deserves is the impact on people in the poorest countries. A review by Christian Aid and the Financial Transparency Coalition of the leaks from the Swiss branch of HSBC, showed that poorer countries lose far more to tax evasion, relative to the size of their economies, than rich ones.
Mr Quantrill added: “In the longer term we need a new system of global cooperation to tackle this deeply rooted and highly corrosive problem of financial secrecy - one which we can all trust.”

For more information please contact Rachel Baird on rbaird@christian-aid.org  or 07850 242950.

Notes to editors:

1. Christian Aid works in some of the world's poorest communities in around 40 countries at any one time. We act where there is great need, regardless of religion, helping people to live a full life, free from poverty. We provide urgent, practical and effective assistance in tackling the root causes of poverty as well as its effects.

2. Christian Aid’s core belief is that the world can and must be changed so that poverty is ended: this is what we stand for. Everything we do is about ending poverty and injustice: swiftly, effectively, sustainably. Our strategy document Partnership for Change explains how we set about this task.

3. Christian Aid is a member of ACT Alliance, a global coalition of more than 130 churches and church-related organisations that work together in humanitarian assistance, advocacy and development.

4. Follow Christian Aid's newswire on Twitter

5. For more information about the work of Christian Aid visit http://www.christianaid.org.uk

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