MORE TIME FOR ISLAND TAX HAVEN CHANGES AFTER COMMONWEALTH INTERVENTION

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By Walter Nalangu Solomon Islands Broadcasting Corporation

BRISBANE, Australia (March 5, 2002 - PINA Nius Online)---Small Pacific Islands states that are members of the Commonwealth have been given more time to implement anti-money laundering measures and sort out their status as tax havens.

This came about following Commonwealth intervention and moves towards implementing laws that will gradually become in line with demands issued by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

The OECD -- a grouping of some of the world's most developed nations -- had originally set February 28 as the deadline for changes to be made.

But Commonwealth Deputy Secretary-General Winston Cox told journalists at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) that the deadline has been extended for most small Pacific and Caribbean states.

This reportedly came about after lobbying by Commonwealth members of the OECD, including Australia, Britain, Canada and New Zealand.

New Zealand Foreign Minister Phil Goff told journalists that sanctions against small Commonwealth states working to clamp down on money laundering and tighten tax laws now were likely to be suspended until mid-2003.

They need time and help to pass new laws and set up financial intelligence units, he said.

Pacific Islands to benefit from the extra time are understood to include the Cook Islands, Niue and Vanuatu.

But Nauru is understood to be under special scrutiny from the OECD. This is because of claims lax laws have enabled Nauru to be used extensively for money laundering.

There was a very clear statement at CHOGM's small states meeting that the Commonwealth's small states were firmly agreed on anti-money laundering measures, Mr. Cox said.

Nobody wanted their financial system to be used to launder the profits of transnational crime or to be used as a means of financing terrorism, he said.

International efforts to crack down on money laundering are being coordinated through the OECD's Financial Action Task Force.

Tax havens have also been targeted by OECD. But some Pacific Islands have accused OECD of double standards in this area. They said some OECD members do not even comply with what the OECD is demanding of the small islands states.

In another CHOGM developments, the Commonwealth Youth Program is likely to remain temporarily in Brisbane, Australia, for the next two years.

The program moved out of Honiara at the height of the ethnic conflict in the Solomon Islands.

Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) Website: http://www.pinanius.org 

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