Britain’s Conservative government is facing calls to strengthen the country’s defenses against “dirty money” after a massive leak of offshore data showed how London is particularly vulnerable to some of the world’s most It is the destination of choice for the richest and most powerful people to stash their cash.
The cache of nearly 12 million files, dubbed the “Pandora Papers”, was published on Sunday by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and its media partners, which include Britain’s Guardian newspaper and the BBC.
The UK and London are particularly prominent in data dumps, with documents showing how wealthy people around the world set up offshore companies to buy assets and evade taxes.
Foreign individuals identified as beneficiaries of such offshore accounts in London, King Abdullah II of Jordan, Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev and aides of Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan Abdullah, have denied any wrongdoing and Khan. tweeted that his government would investigate any person and take appropriate action. If error is found. Aliyev has not commented.
Although the purchase is legal under British law, the latest revelations highlight the complex – and often anonymous – financial practices that wealthy individuals use to evade tax, which is far from the everyday experience of most of the British population.
London is particularly known to the wealthy and powerful because it is home to a sophisticated ecosystem of businesses that can help with the process, including creative wealth management firms, high-end lawyers and long-established accounting firms. Huh.
The London property market struggled over the years to shake off a reputation for playing a central role in hiding and increasing their wealth, with many prime properties in the city center owned by non-citizens. Is. For example, Russian oligarchs have been high-profile buyers of London properties in recent years.
London, one of the world’s largest financial centres, was also prominent in previous leaks of financial data, including the 2016 “Panama Papers” and the following year’s “Paradise Papers”.
For decades, authorities in the UK have pursued a light tactile approach to regulation to attract foreign capital and talent. Critics say it has been a magnet for tax avoidance, which could be legal, as well as more criminal activity, including money laundering.
Duncan Hyams, policy director for campaign group Transparency International UK, said the disclosures should serve as a “wake-up call” for the government to strengthen the UK’s defenses against tax avoidance and money laundering, long overdue. measures can be carried out.
“These leaks show that there is one system for corrupt elites who can buy access to prime assets and enjoy luxury lifestyles and another for honest hardworking people,” he said.
“Once again the UK’s role as a supporter of global corruption and money laundering is exposed with the shortcomings used to funnel suspicious money into the country,” he said.
Transparency International is urging the UK government to close a loophole that allows companies in UK offshore financial centers such as the British Virgin Islands and the Cayman Islands to hold assets in the country without requiring these companies to reveal the names of their rightful owners. allows for.
She also wants the government to crack down on professionals who help illicit money laundering and hide their cash in the UK and those suspected of making their money through crime and corruption properly resource the National Crime Agency .
Treasury chief Rishi Sunak said UK tax officials would inspect the Pandora Papers. He defended the country’s record on tax avoidance.
“I don’t think it’s a shame because we really have a very strong track record on this issue,” Sunak told BBC radio.
He pointed to measures taken over the past decade by the Conservative government to improve transparency — who owns — and the exchange of data between tax officials.
“As you have seen from the newspapers, this is a global problem, it has a global dimension and we need other countries to cooperate with us to deal with it, but we are committed to do that,” he said.
Sunak also said that “there can always be more” when asked about reports that half of all Russian money laundering is estimated to be in the UK.
Opposition parties said the revelations, which also raised questions about donations to the Conservative Party, required immediate action by the government.
“The black money trap uncovered by the #PandoraPapers has reached the heart of UK democracy,” Labor Party foreign affairs spokeswoman Lisa Nandy said in a tweet.
Credit: www.independent.co.uk /