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Brown calls on G20 to ‘end tax havens’

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SANCTIONS, fines and even prison sentences should be imposed by the international community on those who run offshore ‘tax havens’, a former UK Prime Minister has said.

Former UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown

Gordon Brown has written an open letter and launched a petition calling for an international agreement to be reached to ‘immediately’ close down centres which help the wealthy dodge tax, in response to this week’s Paradise Papers data leak.

Jersey was at the centre of one of the major media stories generated by the leak of 13.4 million documents, after it was revealed that US tech giant Apple moved subsidiaries to the Island to allegedly help avoid tax on £250 billion held offshore.

The Island has continually been referred to as a ‘tax haven’ in media reports and was the subject of a Panorama report broadcast on Monday.

In response to the Paradise Papers, Gordon Brown has written an open letter, with an accompanying petition, to the chairman of the G20 calling for him to end the practice of money being moved offshore to avoid tax.

The letter, which is addressed to Argentine President Mauricio Macri and other G20 leaders, says: ‘The level of global inequality is appalling – eight people own as much wealth as half the planet.

‘And the gap is growing, thanks in part to the shadowy world of tax havens which lets trillions be syphoned offshore from our economies. Right now, the rich get richer, and the rest of us pay.

‘Eight years ago, the G20 agreed it would shut down these practices. It’s time to deliver. We call on you to act immediately to end tax havens and ensure that those that run and exploit them are held to account.’

During an interview with the BBC and in a New Statesman article, Mr Brown says that he could advise the G20 on how to close down tax havens.

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‘In 2009 we tried to bring all these tax havens into line – to name and shame them, to say they were non-compliant, to demand action immediately – and it’s been far too slow,’ he told BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg. ‘We must clamp down on them now. We have had the revelations of the numbers of abuses and the scale of abuse. I think it’s about $7 trillion that is now outside the scope of tax authorities.

‘That means if we could take action, in Britain today [Chancellor] Philip Hammond could reverse the universal credit cuts and refinance the National Health Service.’

He added: ‘When I was in government we didn’t have evidence of this scale [the Panama and Paradise Papers], so I don’t think we can [now] leave this unaddressed.’

In his New Statesman article, Mr Brown says tax havens could be outlawed through an international agreement which ‘imposes sanctions, fines and prison sentences on those that run them’.

Mr Brown’s letter and petition can be viewed on the avaaz.org website. At the time of writing, the petition had received more than 600,000 signatures.

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