How I’m tackling tax secrecy in the overseas territories

Archive for December, 2016

How I’m tackling tax secrecy in the overseas territories

Tuesday, December 20th, 2016

Today I tabled an amendment supported by 80 MPs from eight different political parties in Westminster calling on the Government to finally clean up our country’s notorious tax havens.

My amendment would ensure the UK’s Overseas Territories adopt the same transparency standards as the rest of the UK by the time of the next UK general election scheduled for 2020.

By introducing public registers of beneficial ownership, Overseas Territories would have to publically disclose who owns what company in their jurisdiction, shining a light on who owns the assets hidden across the world.

The UK’s Overseas Territories include the British Virgin Islands and the Cayman Islands which constitute some of the world’s most notorious tax havens. These secretive jurisdictions allow criminals and tax avoiders to hide their money away. Campaigners estimate that as much as $32 trillion may be hidden away in tax havens worldwide.

The UK’s Overseas Territories which act as tax havens have a particularly damaging effect on developing countries. The UN Conference on Trade and Development estimate that tax havens cost developing countries at least $100 billion a year in lost revenue, while the OECD has previously said that tax havens may be costing developing countries up to three times the global aid budget.

The amendment will be debated in the early New Year so please do ask your own MP to sign up to the amendment if they haven’t done so already!

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Why I’m backing the ‘Magnitsky’ Amendment

Thursday, December 8th, 2016

In case you missed it, earlier this week I wrote a piece for the Times on why I’m backing the ‘Magnitsky’ amendment to the Criminal Finances Bill to ensure Britain does not become a safe haven for money launderers.

Britain must not be a safe haven for money launderers

Far too many people enjoy luxurious lives in Britain funded by laundered money and free from the consequences of atrocities they commit in their own country. To tackle this issue I am a sponsor of the Magnitsky amendment to the Criminal Finances Bill, which will freeze the UK assets of those responsible for gross human rights violations abroad. I am one of many MPs from different political parties promoting this change to a new law designed to tackle corruption.

Our amendment is named after a Russian lawyer, Sergei Magnitsky, who was tortured and killed in a Moscow prison after blowing the whistle on a $230 million Russian government fraud. He found that money paid to settle tax bills was siphoned off to Russian government officials. When he went public, the very people whose crimes he had uncovered arrested him. The Magnitsky amendment targets those who have persecuted whistleblowers, journalists, human rights activists and opposition politicians.

The Criminal Finances Bill is intended to tackle the scourge of corrupt money that finds its way to the UK. Some of it ends up invested in high-value properties in London — 10 per cent of properties in Westminster are owned by companies registered in tax havens. Other laundered money goes into the financial markets.

Our amendment places a duty on ministers to ask the High Court to place a designation order on people who were involved in, or profited from, the worst human rights abuses. Once an individual is subject to a designation order, the enforcement authorities will have a duty to freeze their British assets.

More than £100 billion is laundered through Britain each year but only £100 million — a fraction of the amount — is frozen. The Magnitsky amendment will close gaps in the law. Individuals and NGOs can also take matters into their own hands and apply for designation orders, sending a clear signal that inaction by the government and enforcement authorities is not acceptable.

Last year the government emphasised its commitment to tackling corruption. Ministers now need to show they will make good on this pledge by passing the Magnitsky amendment into law. Britain cannot be a safe haven for criminals with blood on their hands.

Read the full piece in The Times here

Parliamentary Book Awards Prize for ‘Called to Account’

Wednesday, December 7th, 2016

Last night I was lucky enough to win the ‘Best Non-Fiction book by a Parliamentarian’ award at the Parliamentary Book Awards.

This morning I spoke to Adam Boulton at Sky News about the book and my time as Chair of the Public Accounts Committee.

Thank you again to all my fellow Parliamentarians who voted for my book!

If you would like a copy of the book, you can get it here