Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Zitto’s letter to Cameron over dirty Swiss billions

Zitto kabwe

Zitto kabwe 

By Citizen Reporter

Dar es Salaam. Shadow Minister for Finance Zitto Kabwe (Kigoma North – Chadema) has written to British Prime Minister David Cameron asking for a review of his country’s laws and those of other rich nations which make it impossible for African countries to fully investigate people who have stashed huge amounts of money in offshore accounts.

Mr Kabwe, who was among the first legislators to alert the government that there are numerous Tanzanians who have stashed dubiously acquired billions in foreign banks, has written Mr Cameron at the height of investigations by a special government appointed committee.

And in a related development, information reaching The Citizen indicates that the committee, formed after requests by Mr Kabwe to form a parliamentary one to probe the offshore accounts was turned down, has established that the amount of money held by Tanzanians in foreign accounts is actually more than what was reported earlier.

Sources privy to the information gathered by the committee have told The Citizen that there is about $5.9 billion held by Tanzanians in foreign bank accounts, most of which was illegally obtained.

Some of this money is held in British Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies. Tanzania and other developing countries in Africa have been finding it hard to peep into the accounts because of financial secrecy laws.

In his letter, Mr Kabwe urges Mr Cameron to influence other rich nations to assist Tanzania and other poor countries to recover their stolen cash.

“I call on you to demonstrate your leadership at the (G8) Summit by putting in place aggressive sanctions against British Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies which continue to provide cover for the siphoning of billions of dollars of our tax revenue,” says Mr Kabwe in the letter he handed to the UK High Commissioner in Dar es Salaam on Monday.

The Kigoma North legislator, who also serves as deputy leader of Official Opposition in Parliament, was referring to 39th G8 Summit scheduled for Lough Erne, Northern Ireland in June.

Mr Kabwe, who also serves as Chadema deputy secretary general, said it would help Tanzania and other poor nations which have been affected by the vice if UK and other rich nations decide to enact laws for mandatory disclosure of details of accounts held in known tax havens.

“When a government has reasonable grounds to suspect that money held in certain jurisdictions is the proceeds of corruption, tax avoidance or other crimes by its citizens, disclosure should be mandatory in order to enable it recover the diverted funds,” he insists.

Mr Kabwe, who chairs the Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PAC) said money held by few individuals in foreign banks is sometimes siphoned from development aid which the country receives from UK.

He said aid by UK and other development partners is dwarfed when the amount that Tanzania loses every year to tax evasion and aggressive tax avoidance is taken into account.

“To a large extent, these tax evasions and avoidance are done by multinational corporations, most of them registered in the United Kingdom. This is a constant challenge for our country – a challenge that undermines the same foundations of accountability that we are striving to strengthen and uphold,” he says.

Information obtained by the committee formed by the government to look into offshore accounts has established that tax money which isn’t collected from multinationals and ends up benefiting few individuals who assist the companies to avoid tax, accounts for 46 per cent of current domestic tax revenue.

Sources told The Citizen that, though in the beginning the government indicated that investigating the matter was virtually impossible, there are encouraging signs from some of the countries.

Some of them have agreed to furnish the committee with vital information, including names of Tanzanians who hold accounts in their banks.

Some businessmen and politicians in the current and past governments have already been questioned by the committee and more have been summoned.

According to the Kabwe letter, a recent study produced by Global Financial Integrity (GFI) puts estimates of illicit financial flows out of all developing countries at between $858 billion and $1.06 trillion a year. For each $1 into Africa as development aid, $10 leaves illegally.

Experts argue that Africa is a net creditor to the world as there is more of Africa’s money stashed offshore than the continent’s total foreign debt.

The world must not allow this to continue. We must stop this by crushing these secrecy jurisdictions,” urged Mr Kabwe in the letter, a copy of which was obtained by The Citizen. Current estimates puts the amount of money which Tanzania loses to tax avoidance at $560 million annually. This amount, if put into use, could have otherwise improved Tanzania’s infrastructure, education and health services translating into better standard of living for many. Further estimates also show that between 2002 and 2008, Tanzania lost around $2 billion through illicit money transfers including tax evasion, tax avoidance and corruption. The loss, according to Mr Kabwe, amounts to roughly five per cent of Tanzania’s GDP.