Another one bites the dust: Vanuatu gives up being a tax haven

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The Australian has reported that:

THE Vanuatu Government will scrap its secretive company law provisions within months as part of a legal overhaul aimed at abolishing the Pacific nation's reputation as an international tax haven.

The Vanuatu Financial Services Commission said the country would replace its company law secrecy provisions - which allow for the creation of companies with hidden owners and undisclosed cash deposits - by the end of the year.

The move follows the arrest last week of 58-year-old Vanuatu-based Australian businessman Robert Agius, who is accused of masterminding a $100million offshore tax scam involving more than 400 people.

VFSC commissioner George Andrews, who declined to comment on any matters before the courts, said yesterday that under proposed new legislation, the Pacific nation would crack down on all Vanuatu businesses that provided foreigners with local tax-haven accounts.

According to Andrews:

"Our aim is to get genuine investors in and try to steer crooks out of Vanuatu. We want to develop into some form of financial hub getting away from this financial secrecy business."

Information exchange and tighter regulation is planned.

As the Australian notes:

Vanuatu's crackdown on off-shore companies is expected to hit major Australian banks Westpac and the ANZ, which issue thousands of offshore bank accounts in the Pacific nation each year. As revealed by The Australian, those banks created up to 90 per cent of the accounts established by Mr Agius's PKF Vanuatu.

Banks and accountants working together to supply corruption services. Now there is a surprise.

But the really good news will be if Vanuatu means what it says.

And I take some personal pleasure from this. In 2002 I highlighted KPMG's sale of what were little better than money laundering packages from Vanuatu that forced the local branch to change its name to Hawkes Law. Mind you, they still sell the packages. And they still are selling the packages. And they're still claiming to be associated with KPMG.

We'll be monitoring this.