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    Activists take part in a demonstration outside the European Commission (EC) headquarters ahead of statements by the EC on the effectiveness of existing measures against tax evasion and money-laundering in light of the recent Panama Paper revelations, in Brussels, Belgium, April 12, 2016.

    War on Want: Corruption is Alive and Kicking in UK's Tax Havens

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    Campaign group War on Want has told Sputnik that the UK is harboring the largest number of tax havens in the world and that UK Prime Minister David Cameron is the "wrong man" to respond to the excesses exposed by the Panama Papers.

    Some of the main offshore financial centers and tax havens are either Crown dependencies of the United Kingdom — such as Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man — or British Overseas Territories — including Bermuda, the Cayman Islands, the Turks and Caicos Islands, the British Virgin Islands and Gibraltar.

    The sheer scale of the use of these tax havens by the rich and powerful, as well as many international companies, to avoid tax in countries where they trade or hold assets was exposed most recently by the leaked Panama Papers.

    Owen Espley, Senior Economic Justice Campaigner at War on Want, told Sputnik:

    "A lot of the UK overseas territories and dependencies function as tax havens — the largest network of tax havens linked to one country in the world. Those are the bedrock of illicit flows and corruption. If you are a corrupt person anywhere I the world and you want to hide your money, you need the services of the City of London and those overseas territories and dependencies. They are absolutely essential for funneling money away to escape the regulation of other countries."

    Beneficial Ownership

    Cameron is backing plans to make all companies trading in Europe, register the details of the ultimate owner of a company — many of which are cloaked in a complicated web of anonymous cross-ownership.

    "When you set up a company and you register the company, who are the major shareholders and who is behind that company? David Cameron has set out his stall, saying that he is going to try end encourage the overseas territories and dependencies to establish these registries. We know he's got a track record in lobbying at the European Council for trusts to be exempted. They are a particular feature of the UK overseas territories and dependencies," Owen Espley told Sputnik.

    Although the Cayman Islands have agreed to share information on its register of companies with UK law authorities, it has maintained that it is not a "public central register," which critics say it should be for the purposes of transparency and legitimate journalistic investigation.

    "He was snubbed by these tax havens. And yet, at the same time, David Cameron actually has the power to force them to establish registers. So, if Cameron is serious about tax transparency, then he should use his powers to force them," Espley told Sputnik.

    "If he wants to maintain this fiction that there is a legitimate reason for tax havens to exist, at the same time as the belief that you want to take action, what you end up with is narrowing what is considered 'illegal' activities, whilst actually legitimizing the business activities of something which fundamentally undermines the right of countries to regulate business activities in their territories." 

    Related:

    UK PM Facing Tax Credibility Crisis as Overseas Territories Stand Firm
    'They Serve No Useful Purpose': World Leaders Challenged to End Tax Havens
    Corruption Costs Global Economies Around $2.6 Trillion Every Year
    British-Led Tax Reporting Scheme Branded Hypocritical by Campaign Groups
    Tags:
    Panama Papers, tax haven, leaked documents, London Anti-Corruption Summit 2016, War on Want, David Cameron, Great Britain, United Kingdom
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