The Financial Secrecy Index 2013 (FSI) was launched last Thursday. The Index shows the “yawning gap between G20 rhetoric and reality”: despite some positive developments in the last 2 years, overall “financial secrecy remains alive and well”.
The FSI press release also highlights that “the United Kingdom is the most important global player in the financial secrecy world. While the UK itself ranks only in 21st place, it supports and partly controls a web of secrecy jurisdictions around the world, from Cayman and Bermuda to Jersey and Gibraltar”.
Below is a first sample of coverage by secrecy jurisdiction media.
Switzerland (FSI rank: 1)
Neue Zürcher Zeitung: Switzerland in first place
“Switzerland has done much about the issue of bank secrecy in recent years”
“However, it is still in the first position on the Tax Justice Network’s Financial Secrecy Index”
Aargauer Zeitung: Bad transparency marks for Swiss Financial Industry
The second half of the article highlights that the UK is a “hidden number one on the ranking” and also mentions Luxembourg, Hong Kong and Switzerland.
Luxembourg (FSI rank: 2)
Tageblatt.lu: Luxembourg at the top
“Switzerland, Luxembourg and Hong Kong are, according to the estimates of NGOs and religious groups, the biggest shadow financial centres and tax havens in the world”
Wort.lu: Luxembourg called financial secrecy “death star” in Tax Justice Network report
Jean-Jacques Rommes, director of the Luxembourg bankers’ association ABBL contested the results: “The authors of the report are fundamentally of the opinion that we should not have a financial centre bigger than the size of the country. This is what really bothers them,” Rommes commented to the “Luxemburger Wort”.”
“Rommes slammed the Financial Secrecy Index, saying that it is not taken seriously in professional circles. However, he said that it gives Luxembourg bad press internationally and puts pressure on the political sphere.”
“It is harmful and that’s also the intention,” he concluded.”
Germany (FSI rank: 8)
Süddeutsche Zeitung: “Tax Haven Germany”
Tagespiegel: “Germany particularly attractive to tax cheats”
Bermuda (FSI rank: 14th)
The Royal Gazette reports that Finance Minister Bob Richards called the FSI “total nonsense“.
He also said:
“I don’t know of any G8 country that publicly reveals accounts unless they are a public company on the stock exchange. It’s really hypocritical. It’s not required in the US or UK.”
“[Bermuda] had signed almost 40 tax information exchange agreements — including ones with almost all G8 countries and 75 percent of G20 countries.”
“He added Bermuda had also signed up to the OECD/Council of Europe multilateral tax agreement and the US Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FACTA).”
Austria (FSI rank: 18)
Krone.at: Austria continues to be among untransparent countries
Ireland (FSI rank: 47)
Irish Times: Ireland a ‘prolific source of tax loopholes’, says transparency watchdog
The subheader notes that “Swiss top ‘secrecy index’ where, despite criticisms, Ireland is among the better states surveyed”
The 2nd half of the article takes the focus away from Ireland and towards other countries, in particular the UK and Germany.
New Zealand (FSI rank: 48): Foreign trusts earn NZ tax haven status – Greens
“New Zealand’s international reputation as a transparent and well-regulated financial services centre took another step backwards today with our appearance for the first time on the Financial Secrecy Index,” said Green Party Co-leader Dr Russel Norman.”
“Our secretive foreign trust regime and lax company registration requirements are damaging our international reputation.”
“Dr Norman has also drafted a new law to address the secrecy loopholes that are easily abused in the New Zealand foreign trust regime.
“Transparency is the best remedy to ensure New Zealand foreign trusts are not being misused,” said Dr Norman.”