Members from the European Parliament’s Committee of Inquiry into Money Laundering, Tax Avoidance and Tax Evasion (PANA) will be travelling to the United Kingdom today in the first of a quartet of fact-finding missions to learn more about tax havens. Future visits already planned include Malta, Luxembourg and the United States.

Speaking ahead of the trip, Fabio De Masi, GUE/NGL Vice-Chair in PANA committee and European Parliament representative at the UK Public Accounts Committee's Global Tax Transparency Summit in December, said:

“The UK is at the heart of the world's largest web of tax havens and is intricately connected with the world of offshore finance. The Panama Papers showed that in no other European country are intermediaries more active than in the UK. Bermuda, Cayman Islands, British Virgin Islands – a list of who’s who of global tax havens are thriving under the auspices of Her Majesty’s Government.”

“And it's not just money laundering and tax: Europol's cross-examination of the Panama Papers with their counter-terrorism finances database flagged up the UK financial system as having one of the biggest concentration of suspects with more than 3500 hits,” the German MEP added.

“The crackdown on corruption in the Cook Islands in 2008 showed that London could easily act upon and enforce transparency if it had so wished. But the British elite is so deeply entrenched in the arrangement; you only have to see former Prime Minister David Cameron's family ties to offshore trusts in the Panama Papers.”

De Masi added, “despite talks of a crackdown on tax evasion and aggressive tax planning, mainland UK is well on its way to becoming a prime tax haven. Google got its own sweetheart deal in 2016; others, such as several OECD Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (BEPS) commitments – for example, rules for permanent establishments – have already been shelved. That’s because the UK government’s been mounting strong opposition against a much-needed transparency on trusts in the Council.”

“Tax dodging is not a petty crime and it ravages our budgets. The UK is also undermining our work on the EU's tax haven blacklist by preventing strong criteria for screening. Its government has already announced its intention to go further down that route post-Brexit and lower tax rates to a minimum. The EU must get tough on tax havens and introduce hefty withholding taxes against non-cooperative jurisdictions as well as withdrawing the licences of banks and lawyers that continue to aid tax dodging,” argued De Masi.

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