By Will Fitzgibbon
Government officials, arms merchants and corporations have spirited away millions of dollars from destitute West African nations through offshore tax havens, an investigation by journalists from the region and the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists has found.
Offshore companies were set up for a global engineering firm that avoided paying millions in taxes to Senegal, one of the world’s poorest countries; for a little-known entrepreneur who won a contract to build West Africa’s largest slaughterhouse and for a well-connected arms trafficker from Chad. In several cases, the companies, as well as the companies’ transactions and offshore bank accounts, were not declared or are only now being revealed in more detail.
The findings were drawn from a collection of almost 30 million documents, representing several leaked financial records obtained by and shared with ICIJ since 2012.
From Cape Verde’s islands of white-sand beaches and rocky volcanoes to Niger’s vast deserts, West African countries are plundered by companies and individuals, while governments do little to stem the flow.
By Max de Haldevang
Britain is forcing many of the world’s most notorious tax havens to reveal their inner secrets, after prime minister Theresa May’s government caved to an opposition amendment that will make the UK Overseas Territories open up their corporate books.
The amendment requires tax havens like the Cayman Islands, British Virgin Islands, and Bermuda to publish registries of who actually owns companies registered there. These islands now provide almost no meaningful corporate ownership information, resulting in abuse by kleptocrats, gangsters, and tax evaders—as found in the Panama Papers leak, where around half the companies exposed were formed in the British Virgin Islands.
Anti-corruption campaigners lauded the move. “The UK’s tax havens have featured in countless corruption and money laundering cases—ending their corporate secrecy will throw a huge spanner in the works of corrupt dictators, tax evaders and organized criminals,” Naomi Hirst of Global Witness NGO said in a statement.