Europe must get its own house in order
Mission to Strasbourg…
The European Parliament held a round table for journalists on the inquiry report and the recommendations of the Committee of Inquiry into Money Laundering, Tax Avoidance and Tax Evasion (PANA). The Parliament will debate and adopt its position on these documents in the December Plenary Session.
Following the Panama Papers leaks, the European Parliament decided on 8 June 2016, to establish a Committee Inquiry to investigate alleged contraventions and maladministration in the application of Union law in relation to money laundering, tax avoidance and tax evasion, the PANA Committee.
In the course of its mandate, the PANA Committee held 27 public meeting and organized seven delegation visits to the UK, Luxembourg, US, Malta, Portugal, Cyprus and Switzerland. Hundreds of experts were heard, including
Commissioners, national politicians, investigative journalists, money laundering and tax experts, academics, prosecutors, financial intelligence, lawyers, accountants, bankers and NGOs representatives.
The findings of the PANA Committee reflect the discrepancies between the practices revealed in the Panama Papers and the EU Law, notably the Directives on Anti-Money Laundering and on Administrative Cooperation in the field of
Taxation. The report includes a factual part collecting and analyzing the evidence taken into account by the Committee to arrive at its findings as well as the conclusions identifying contraventions of EU Law and instances of
maladministration. The Committee has concluded that some of the EU member states are obstructing the fight against money laundering, tax avoidance and tax evasion.
Lack of political
MEPs expressed regret that several EU members are featured in the Panama Papers. What is more, they pointed to the lack of political will among some member states to advance reforms and enforcement. In their view, this has
allowed fraud and tax evasion to continue.
The Committee was sharply critical of the secrecy surrounding the work of the Council’s Code of Contact Group and highlighted how moves to counter tax evasion are often blocked by individual member states.
The PANA Committee stressed the need for regularly updated, standardized, interconnected and publicly accessible beneficiary ownership (BO) registers.
Furthermore, it called for proposals to close loopholes which allow for aggressive tax planning as well as more dissuasive sanctions at both EU and national against banks and intermediaries “that are knowingly, willfully and systematically involved in illegal tax or money laundering schemes”.
Co-rapporteur Jeppe Kofod (S&K, DK) claimed that Europe needs to get its own house in order before it can end the scourge of systematic money laundering, tax avoidance and tax evasion. Reform is urgently needed and the citizens of Europe have the right to know what their national governments are doing and what they
are not doing.
According to Werner Langen, Chair of the PANA Committee, on the Paradise Papers’ revelations, he noted that these new revelations definitely deserve further analysis, especially because as they involve offshore interests and
activities of many politicians and because they raise questions about certain EU member states.
Tribute to Daphne Caruana Galizia
The Committee also paid tribute with a minute of silence to Maltese investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, who was killed in a car bomb explosion on Monday 16 October. Ms Caruana Galizia had given the Committee evidence about the Panama Papers.