Non-governmental Groups In Jersey Protest At Tax Havens

Non-governmental Groups In Jersey Protest At Tax Havens

Dow Jones

March 13, 2009 : 01:45 PM ET

ST. HELIER, Jersey (AFP)—Dozens of non-governmental organizations Friday joined a protest against tax havens outside international banks on Jersey in the Channel Islands.

"We are here in Jersey not because we want to draw a picture of Jersey itself, we want to draw your attention to the major problems in the entire financial system," said John Christensen of the independent Tax Justice Network.

"Today we will show that there are banks engaged in activities around the world that use places like Jersey not just for tax evasion but also as a major part of the shadow banking system," he said.

Tax havens like Jersey are a "crucial part of the financial crisis," he said.

The protest comes amid efforts by some countries to put pressure on tax havens and nations which maintain bank secrecy, with Germany stressing that Washington is showing new found willingness to ensure that offshore financial centers don’t go unregulated in the wake of the current crisis.

Switzerland agreed Friday to relax its long-held bank secrecy laws.

On Jersey, militants from the anti-globalization group Attac carried balloons covered with false banknotes as they marched past the branch offices of HSBC ( HBC), Societe Generale (GLE.FR), BNP Paribas (BNP.FR), Citibank (C), Allied Irish Banks (AIB) and others, with a few local residents joining the group.

Outside each bank they explained why bank practices are allegedly hurting Jersey, developing countries or the international financial system.

Jean Merckaert of the French NGO, Catholic Committee Against Hunger and For Development, singled out France’s BNP Paribas, which he said had the largest number of branches in tax havens.

"189, including 21 branch offices in the Cayman Islands and three in Jersey alone," he said.

He said French President Nicolas Sarkozy "promised that assistance to banks in this crisis would be conditional on cutting ties with tax havens but BNP Paribas was the first to benefit from the French banking rescue."

Christian Aid, Les Enfants de la Terre, Oxfam and Debt and Development Coalition Ireland were among the other groups to join the demonstration.

Jersey is a U.K. protectorate with its own parliament and legal system. Its authorities reject the label "tax haven," arguing they have signed agreements with U.K. authorities to share information about attempted tax dodging.

Voir en ligne : CNN

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