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Old data produces new gems in ICIJ’s latest West Africa Leaks investigation

May 24th, 2018

PRESS RELEASE

Partnering with more than a dozen West African journalists, a re-examination of old leaks turns up new stories of tax abuse and other offshore connections

The Financial Transparency Coalition welcomes the latest investigation from the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) and the Cellule Nobert Zongo Cell for Investigative Journalism in West Africa (CENOZO), titled West Africa Leaks, which is being billed as the largest ever collaboration between journalists from West Africa. The project, which involved a re-examination of nearly 27.5 million files from various ICIJ leaks from the past few years, involved 13 journalists from the region looking at the data with a West African lens.

The West Africa Leaks have exposed the dealings of many multi-national corporations, as well as Africa’s elites and public officials, who have benefitted from an industry that feeds off of secrecy and the ability to move money in the shadows. For a region where a significant portion of the population lives under $2 a day, the estimated $80 billion annually lost to illicit financial flows is socio-economically devastating.

“The West Africa Leaks is another confirmation of the systemic and global nature of corruption and illicit financial flows,” said Alvin Mosioma, Executive Director of the Tax Justice Network Africa, an FTC member organization. “A broken global financial system has allowed everyone from corrupt public officials to the largest of multination corporations free reign to move money under the radar, often to secrecy jurisdictions in Europe and elsewhere. Evidence provided through the leaks underlines the importance of the demand by the FTC for increased transparency in the global financial system.”

The new findings involve a range of actors, such as Canadian engineering company, SNC-Lavalin, which allegedly exploited a double taxation agreement between Senegal and Mauritius to dodge $8.9 million in taxes in Senegal, while paying only 3% tax on its profits, despite Senegal’s statutory tax rate being 30%.

“The new revelations contained in the West Africa Leaks are important and consequential as they re-emphasize the need for a paradigm shift regarding how African countries conduct their financial businesses,” said Donald Deya, Chief Executive Officer of the Pan African Lawyers Union, an FTC member organization. “It is time for Africa to take the lead in adopting policies and building structures to curb existing illicit financial flows and prevent similar or novel fraudulent maneuvering from emerging in the future.”

The leaks also uncovered questionable dealings of public officials, including the case of the medical doctor and former Ghanaian diplomat who allegedly used a spider’s web of offshore companies — aided by the infamous offshore service provider Appleby — to accrue massive private wealth, all while serving as Ghana’s ambassador to the United States.

“The journalists from countries across West Africa should be applauded for their determination to bring a number of buried stories to light,” said Sargon Nissan, Director of the Financial Transparency Coalition. “Too often, these leaks’ biggest headlines involve powerbrokers in North America, Europe, or other regions, but some of the most devastating effects are felt in African countries, so it’s encouraging to see an entire investigation devoted to the cause.”

“These stories should be another reminder that countries must move to enact true financial transparency reforms, from public country-by-country reporting to public registers of beneficial ownership. The EU should also re-consider how it is addressing the issue of tax havens in its own backyard, as they are crucial actors in funneling dirty money from low income countries,” he added.

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Contact:

Sargon Nissan, Director, FTC, snissan@financialtransparency.org, (UK) +44 7766 580276

Alvin Mosioma, Executive Director, TJNA, mosioma@taxjusticeafrica.net

Donald Deya, CEO, PALU, (Tanzania) +255 787 066 888

Written by Financial Transparency Coalition

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