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Time's up for secrecy, protestors tell UK tax havens' leaders in London

1 December 2015 - Tax justice campaigners protested outside today’s London meeting of the UK’s Caribbean tax havens, demanding an end to their support for tax dodging, international corruption, terrorist financing and money laundering.

The leaders of the Overseas Territories, which include the British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands and Bermuda, have their annual talks with the UK government today and Wednesday.

Speaking outside the central London meeting venue, Christian Aid’s Senior Economic Justice Adviser Joseph Stead said: “We’re here to demand an end to the Overseas Territories’ shameful and continued enabling of global crime.

“These tax havens are the UK’s constitutional backyard and yet they are selling secrecy to the world’s tax evaders, money launderers, bribe payers and takers and worse.

“While the Overseas Territories make money from this notoriously dirty business, it is ordinary people in poor and rich countries alike who pay the price.

“We hope that at this week’s meeting, the UK government will finally persuade the Territories to do the right thing and reveal the real owners of the 500,000-plus companies registered on their shores.

“If that doesn’t happen, the UK government should use the legal powers at its disposal.” Campaigners wrote to David Cameron this week to remind him of his commitment to tackle the problem of anonymous companies.

During a recent visit to the Caribbean, the Prime Minister revealed his impatience at some UK tax havens’ slow progress towards transparency around companies’ real owners.

Christian Aid activists outside the tax havens’ meeting displayed a banner reading “Overseas Territories, We’re Still Waiting,” and attempted to give delegates a new assessment of the tax havens’ moves away from secrecy.

That assessment, The UK’s Corruption Problem, was published on Monday by Christian Aid, Global Witness, the Tax Justice Network and Transparency International. It warns that while the Territories have made progress towards transparency around company ownership, they still play a major role in serious international crime.

The UK itself has led Europe and the world on shedding light on who really owns companies, by introducing a public register of companies’ real owners. However, with the exceptions of Montserrat and Gibraltar, the Overseas Territories have repeatedly refused to follow suit.

The recently published Financial Secrecy Index, produced by the Tax Justice Network, shows that if the UK and all its tax havens were counted as one, then they would easily come top of the global league of what it calls secrecy jurisdictions.

For more information please contact Rachel Baird on 0207 523 2446 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 the ACT Alliance, a global coalition of more than 130 churches and church-related organisations that work together in humanitarian assistance, advocacy and development. Further details at http://actalliance.org

4. Follow Christian Aid's newswire on Twitter: http://twitter.com/caid_newswire

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


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