UK tax deals create “one of largest money laundering operations in history”

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I have reposted the following from the Treasure Islands blog with Nick Shaxson's permission:

From The Telegraph:

Tax amnesties — such as the deal announced with Switzerland last month — help criminals gain respectability and risk turning HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) into “one of largest money-laundering operations in history” a leading barrister claims.
. . .
[Jonathan Fisher QC] described the recent agreement between the United Kingdom and Switzerland as a “grubby little deal” and claimed that further tax amnesties planned for next year “present a colossal opportunity for money launderers to legitimise the proceeds of crime”.

Indeed, indeed.

Now HMRC, which I believe to be an organisation filled with dedicated professionals whose work is tainted by its leadership, denied all this, of course:

“This is complete nonsense, there is not a shred of evidence to support these claims. HMRC has robust measures in place to prevent fraud against the tax system.”

Now first of all, they would say that, wouldn’t they? But also — given that they have guaranteed secrecy to UK criminals using Swiss banks, with only very meagre avenues for obtaining information about those accounts, where you effectively have to know the information you’re looking for before you ask for it, and can’t use whistleblowers — how could they possibly know that it is ‘complete nonsense?’

Absence of evidence is a very different thing from evidence of absence. In the absence of evidence, and when secrecy is at the heart of the matter, we have to presume that Fisher is quite right. In fact, knowing that criminals exploit secrecy at every opportunity, how could it be otherwise?

More from the Telegraph, which has recently shown good form in asking difficult questions here:

“Last month’s HMRC offer to Britons with hidden Swiss bank accounts raised questions about whether it was applying one law to very rich tax evaders and another, harsher, regime to the less wealthy.”

It did more than raise questions. This is, quite literally, and quite precisely, what HMRC has done here: create different sets of rules for different classes of people.