The billions of dollars that are left out of the public purse for criminal activities such as corruption, money laundering and tax evasion could finance efforts against COVID-19 and climate change, in addition to promoting the fight against poverty and in favor of sustainable development.
According to a report prepared by the High Level Panel on International Financial Accountability, Transparency and Integrity to achieve the 2030 Agenda (FACTI Panel), a tenth of the world’s wealth could be hidden in offshore financial assets, which would prevent fair tax collection by governments.
In this way, at present money laundering would reach up to a 2.7% of the world Gross Domestic Product each year and corporations would deprive governments of about $ 600 billion annually also using tax havens.
The High Level Panel was established in March 2020 to analyze regulatory and implementation gaps and deficiencies that facilitate the worldwide movement of illegal flows of money from corruption, money laundering and tax evasion activities.
Theft from the treasury
These flows suppose a robbery for the countries because with them, progress could be made towards sustainable development that leaves no one behind.
In addition, illegal activities undermine trust in institutions, contribute to greater poverty and, in the current situation, the resources to face the COVID-19 pandemic and the climate crisis are also decreasing.
The Panel’s work was carried out as the pandemic progressed, wreaking havoc on health and economies, exacerbating inequality and highlighting the need for greater public resources to invest in recovery and restore confidence in national and international governance.
Corruption impedes economic development, stifles entrepreneurship and dampens investment, the United Nations Secretary-General stressed today.
José Antonio Ocampo, a member of the panel made up of former leaders and governors of central banks, business leaders and civil society leaders, and academics, explained that the intention was to recommend measures to prevent the bleeding of the treasury from continuing so that the money is allocated to attend to social needs.
“The recommendations are oriented to the type of actions that can be done at the global level but also to see how national efforts can be supported to try to counteract these flows that mean huge money that can be used for development purposes, especially in the crisis we are experiencing, but also to improve governance. “
That is, the panel experts proposed to adopt financial integrity that attracts and uses resources to finance the Sustainable Development Goals.
So instead of disappearing into mazes offshore or extraterritorial, the funds that today are illegally diverted, would be used for the benefit of the people and places that generated them.
To achieve financial integrity, said José Antonio Ocampo, you must rethink strategies current fight against illicit flows.
“First of all, we must rethink the way to attack these illegal financial flows in the world through greater international cooperation and comprehensively, because some are related to each other. Therefore, it is proposed that there be coordinated follow-up by the United Nations Economic and Social Council, ECOSOC. In this process it is very important that developing countries are seated at the table because they are some of the great victims, as is known from the cases of some cases of fortunes associated with corruption that have flowed from developing countries to developed countries. ”, He pointed out.
There are laws that prohibit money laundering, tax evasion and corruption, but they are crimes that continue to occur, what does it take to enforce them?
“Needed the strengthening of all national institutions that follow up on these issues, there can be substantial progress in that. In banking matters, the control of money laundering and other illegal flows can be strengthened. As Minister of Finance in Colombia, I established the mechanisms for reviewing the activities of banks in this field in collaboration with the United States Secretary of the Treasury. And Colombia is today one of the countries that appears in the rankings as one of the best in terms of money laundering through the financial system, although there are other forms of money laundering, for example through smuggling, which is an issue. that Colombia continues to suffer. Yes, national institutions can be created with a significant degree of effectiveness, ”Ocampo asserted.
In addition to institutions, experts acknowledge the crucial work of non-state actors.
“We defend journalists and to all the actors who find information and make it known to the authorities. They must be protected from the various activities that may harm them. This includes people within companies who know about illegal practices and report them to judicial authorities. International standards must also be created for professionals in the law, the financial sector and accounting at an international level because they should be considered equally guilty if they are involved in crimes or if they advise those involved in financial, legal or accounting matters ” , he detailed.
Mark Garten / ONU
José Antonio Ocampo (Center), member of the High Level Panel on International Financial Responsibility, Transparency and Integrity to achieve the 2030 Agenda
Convention on tax matters
According to the Panel report, cooperation mechanisms have to be strengthened to combat tax evasion and for this it proposes a UN international instrument about taxes so that all countries are included.
“A United Nations convention on tax matters that establish the principles of tax control, the principles of international tax cooperation and the creation of an intergovernmental body in the United Nations that is in charge of tax matters, ”Ocampo added.
These topics would include the control over capital gains, added the panelist, “since it is very typical that these profits are registered in tax havens”
The report of the High-Level Panel on International Financial Accountability, Transparency and Integrity to Achieve the 2030 Agenda made 14 recommendations, among which the following stand out:
- Responsibility of countries, the private sector and the international community as a whole for the promulgation and enforcement of laws, prosecution of corruption and cross-border crimes, and zero tolerance for the promotion of illicit flows for business purposes
- Preparation of a United Nations Tax Convention that stipulates transparency standards in this field and that it is an open and inclusive legal instrument with universal participation
- Establishment of a centralized registry of information on the final beneficiaries of money laundering based on international standards
- Fair tax payment of taxpayers, especially by multinational corporations, and design of incentives to combat tax avoidance and tax evasion
- Global guidelines for avoid the complicity of financial, legal and accounting professionals.
- Minimum standards of protection of human rights defenders, journalists and other whistleblowers of corruption, money laundering and tax evasion
- Development of mechanisms of national governance robust and coordinated that reinforce financial integrity for sustainable development
- Establishment of a mechanism for global coordination that deals with financial integrity in a systemic way that is headed by the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC)
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