A long-awaited report hit the desks of US policy makers and businesses late on Monday evening. It lists the names of 210 prominent Russians with considerable ties to the Kremlin. The report was mandated by the Countering America’s Adversaries through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) which was meant to serve as the legal basis for retaliation on Russia for its interference in the 2016 Presidential election.
Many expected that this list, which is split by senior political figures and oligarchs, would be a sanctions list. However, the US Treasury Department has stated that “this is not a sanctions list and should in no way be interpreted as one”. So what’s the point of the list? Well, some believe that just being on the list will make it more difficult for these individuals to do business in the future. This could explain why individuals such as Eugene Kaspersky, who is currently tussling with the US government, is one of the “named and shamed”. It is also possible that this “not a sanctions” list has been watered down due to increasingly aggressive rhetoric on economic topics between the two countries. Ironically, the Kremlin has stated that it believes the motivation behind this report is to influence the upcoming Russian election in March.
If you wanted to evade tax where would be the easiest place to do it? If you’ve come across the Panama or Paradise Papers you may think that the most obliging jurisdictions are where the sun shines the brightest. This however, is not always the case, as reinstated yesterday by the Tax Justice Network who released the Tax Secrecy Index 2018.
The Index now surveys 112 jurisdictions, which annually host an estimated $21-32 trillion of private wealth – which is either untaxed or undertaxed. So who stole the top spots? Unsurprisingly, Switzerland remained at the top of the list, reinforcing its reputation as a tax haven. More surprisingly, the US moved from the third to the second position – a jump that will likely bolster current efforts in Congress to rid the country of shell companies. The UK can, to an extent, pat itself on the back. The mainland has been moved from the 15th best place to evade tax down to 23rd. The progress made by passing the Criminal Finances Act and continued support from governments for the Anti-Corruption Plan will definitely have helped. However, if you combine the tax evading rankings of all of the UK overseas territories and crown dependencies such as the Cayman and Channel Islands, Switzerland is quickly dethroned from the top spot.
The world’s great and good met at the World Economic Forum in Davos last week to discuss the health of the world economy. Although the prognosis was surprisingly positive, a few long term pains remain. India’s President spoke on the three greatest threats to civilisation right now, the second being terrorism. US Treasury Secretary, Steven Mnuchin, paid lip service to countering the problem of terror financing when he met with his counterparts from Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Canada.
Another, perhaps less well-known summit has been taking place in Addis Abbas, Ethiopia this week – the 30th African Union Summit. Here, the need to tackle terrorist financing has already featured much more heavily. In his address the President of Nigeria made the case for a continent-wide database of terrorists to improve investigations into terrorist groups and their activities. He also said more must be done to stop the paying of kidnap ransoms, which routinely fund the activities of terrorist groups in the region. With over 2,679 violent events linked to terrorist groups taking place in Africa last year alone, it’s time for all world leaders to do more.
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