A now retired magistrate, Renaud Van Ruymbeke has been investigating financial crimes in France and their international ramifications for twenty years. In his book titled Offshore – Behind the edifying scenes of tax havens*, paints a dark picture of a prosperous delinquency.
Evaluations by international institutions estimate the money hidden in tax havens at $ 8.7 trillion. How to explain the enormity of this figure?
In the globalized economy, more and more money is circulating, the hidden mass is earning accordingly. However, it is impossible to answer precisely, because who is able to indicate the hidden sums in the Cayman Islands? or in some tax haven where accounts are anonymous and companies are not subject to taxation? In 2009, the end of tax havens was hastily proclaimed by President Nicolas Sarkozy!
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What makes it so difficult to check for deviations?
Judges are faced with increasingly sophisticated engineering. In host countries, tax evaders or tax evasioners are never prosecuted. Local banks set the total opacity. And the scammers are willing to pay millions to make billions. Specialized law firms actively participate in these operations, as we saw in Panama with Mossack Fonseca on the occasion of the revelations of the Panama Papers.
There is a real disproportion between the means implemented by these people and those of justice or the Ministry of Finance. There is no transparency or centralization, so we refrain from answering the simplest questions. Why do we open an account in the name of a Panamanian company? Why is Delaware in the US home to so many multinationals? Why do we never get a response from Dubai when we ask for bank account information? Most of the Russian assets tried to be sanctioned by the invasion of Ukraine are safe there.
We must remain in our place and we must not replace the politicians
Don’t you feel frustrated by these obstacles?
Yes of course. I remember a case involving a Russian bank where 200 million dollars were at stake, I was told that the bank had closed, that there were no more accounting documents. Another time, in the Virgin Islands, I was told that the computer codes had been changed and that the old ones were no longer accessible!
You and your Swiss colleagues launched the Geneva appeal in 1996. Do we need an international of judges to be effective?
It was a one-off action, not an international of judges. We must remain in our place and we must not replace the politicians.
Why not imagine a fiscal COP that commits states?
Are there really convincing solutions?
The rules must apply to everyone in Europe. We must give up realpolitik and commit ourselves first of all to one point: tax evasion must be regarded as fraud. Tax investigation? The word doesn’t scare me. It is also desirable to outlaw bogus companies and prohibit them from opening bank accounts, as well as sanctioning intermediaries and clowns of all kinds. Why not imagine a fiscal COP that commits states? The emergence of informants is a positive sign. Send a good message to scammers: no one is immune.
* Editions Les Liens here liberating, 272 pages, 20 euros.