Greens: One year after Panama Papers, EU states should stop blocking tax reforms

 

Biggest leak in history made clear what many had long suspected: how easy it has been to evade taxes or launder dirty money

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Matthew Vella
3 April 2017, 10:18am
Sven Giegold (right) during the PANA committee delegation visit to Malta back in February 2017
Sven Giegold (right) during the PANA committee delegation visit to Malta back in February 2017
Monday 3 April marks the one-year anniversary of the publication of the Panama Papers by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), which revealed the existence of secret offshore companies for former energy minister Konrad Mizzi and the Prime Minister’s chief of staff Keith Schembri.

“It is time for EU Member States to stop blocking progress on tackling tax evasion and money laundering,” said Greens/EFA member of the Panama Papers inquiry committee, Sven Giegold.

“The biggest leak in history made clear what so many had long suspected: just how easy it has been to evade taxes or launder dirty money. With the full state of the fraud on display for all to see, the European Commission has been forced to introduce tougher rules against money laundering and is slowly making progress on monitoring tax advisers and the much needed protections for the whistleblowers who make this sort of conduct public.”

But Giegold claimed this will not be enough as long as European governments insist on continuing with business as usual. “Their refusal to progress on public transparency of who owns companies and trusts and delaying tactics on public tax transparency for companies amount to a tacit acceptance of tax dodging. This is an unbelievably short-sighted response to the biggest tax scandal in history.”

The European Parliament’s committee investigating the Panama Papers leaks has requested the intervention of Prime Minister Joseph Muscat in an attempt to convince Keith Schembri to appear before a public hearing in Strasbourg.

Schembri has already declined an invitation to appear before the committee during a visit to Malta last month, on the basis that he was not an elected official and that he holds “a position of trust in service of the government”.

Now, Muscat is being asked to use his “authority” in forcing Schembri to appear before the PANA committee. “I would like to invite you to use your authority to ask him to cooperate with the PANA Committee by accepting an invitation to appear to a public hearing in Strasbourg on 18 May,” MEP Werner Langer said in a letter addressed to Muscat.

Sven Giegold said that the UK and its offshore territories play a sad key role in the provision of secretive companies. “As a member of the EU the UK could block defensive measures to protect the integrity of Europe’s financial system. The ending of the UK’s tax haven business must become a priority during the Brexit negotiations as a condition for the access to the EU’s capital market.”

The mandate of the PANA committee has been extended until December. It is expected to adopt its final report in November, after 18 months of investigations. In January 2017, the Greens/EFA group published a report on the role of intermediaries in tax scandals such as Panama Papers and Offshore Leaks.

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Matthew Vella is executive editor at MaltaToday.