European countries sign up to greater cross-border transparency
Transparency International today welcomes the pledge made by Belgium, the Czech Republic, the Netherlands, Poland and Romania to share a wide range of financial information across borders on an automatic basis.
The five countries double the number committed to the initiative. Last week the Finance Ministers of Britain, France, Germany, Italy and Spain signed a joint letter describing the pilot multilateral exchange programme. The agreement will see automatic exchange of a wide range of financial information between the ten countries. They hope to encourage more EU and non-EU countries to join.
“It is significant that European countries are joining together to make information exchange automatic and more transparent. This is an important step towards tackling huge illicit financial flows. However, we believe this needs to be part of a wider, global push for greater transparency, not confined to EU countries, nor confined to information relevant simply for taxation,” said Huguette Labelle, the Chair of Transparency International.
As the G20 Finance Ministers assemble this week, it is hoped they continue the spirit of collaboration. Other key issues such as ensuring adherence to the Financial Action Task Force regulations on money laundering and strengthening due diligence procedures by committing to mandatory, public registers that disclose the beneficial ownership of trusts and companies to reduce the ease with which the proceeds of corruption can be hidden should also be on the table.
Many financial institutions, not only in offshore financial centres remain safe havens for all types of illicit money. Greater cross-border transparency, spurred by greater domestic and international inter-agency cooperation would make it more difficult to conceal illicit financial flows, including reduce tax evasion and corruption.
Transparency International called on the G20 Finance Ministers who meet in Washington DC this week to encourage countries to join the Global Forum on Transparency and Exchange of Information and the OECD Multilateral Convention on Mutual Administrative Assistance in Tax Matters, and support the provision for automatic exchange of tax information.
Whilst the commitments are an encouraging step forward, Transparency International also believes that all G20 countries should ratify the OECD Convention on Mutual Administrative Assistance in Tax Matters and encourage other countries beyond the G20 to join and support the provision for automatic exchange of tax information.
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