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Saturday, October 31, 2009

EVERY DAY IT SEEMS THAT OUR THESIS IS BECOMING STRONGER and STRONGER

Leading economies blamed for fiscal secrecy



Leading economic centres including the US, UK and Singapore are among the countries most to blame for promoting international financial secrecy, according to a new index comparing the harm allegedly done by tax havens and rich nations.

The league table to be published on Monday by the Tax Justice Network, a respected campaign group, is led by the US state of Delaware and includes Luxembourg, Switzerland and Hong Kong in its top 10.
The research – which comes ahead of the Group of 20 finance ministers’ meeting in Scotland next week – is an unusual attempt to measure whether powerful countries are as culpable over illicit fund flows as the offshore centres they have attacked since the financial crisis.

John Christensen, Tax Justice Network director, said the index outlined “a much more intricate story than has been told in the past about how financial markets have secrecy at their core”.

He said: “We like to think that liberalised financial markets are transparent. But when you dig deep into their arrangements, you find transparency is something of a chimera.”

The rankings are made by giving each of 60 onshore and offshore financial centres an “opacity score”, which is then weighted according to the jurisdiction’s significance in the world financial system.
Delaware – a big centre for US corporate registrations that is widely criticised for its secrecy – emerges as the runaway winner, while the City of London’s size puts it in fifth place, even though it is judged the least opaque of the territories surveyed.

The tax havens hardly escape unscathed, with hedge fund centre Cayman ranked fourth and Bermuda, a leading base for insurers, coming in seventh. European nations fare badly, with Belgium and Ireland making it five entries for the Continent in the top 10.

Singapore’s eighth place reflects longstanding criticism from overseas investigators, who allege it is unco-operative despite its highly sophisticated financial system.

The question of the degree of blame attached to rich nations and tax havens for failings in financial transparency has become highly political in the wake of the credit crunch.

By Michael Peel in London ,30 october

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2009

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