G20 summit: Ten tax havens agree to share information
Ten tax havens have signed up to a deal to share information about those suspected of avoiding tax, Gordon Brown will announce at this week's G20 meeting in London.
By Andrew Porter, Political Editor
Last Updated: 10:17AM BST 31 Mar 2009
The Prime Minister will use the meeting of world leaders to hail the deal which he admits he has spent a decade, including his time at the Treasury, trying to secure. Among those who have agreed are Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Luxemburg, Monaco, Austria and Andorra.
The agreement will be part of a wider package of measures designed to «clean up» the global financial system. That will include a new system of worldwide economic supervision.
The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) had put pressure on the Swiss and Austrians in particular to sign up to the deal. They appeared on a recent list which highlighted those countries whose bank secrecy rules questioned.
The other countries who have signed up are Hong Kong, Macau, Belgium and Singapore.
Those countries will now agree to share information with other nations when it is requested – although not automatically. United States tax investigators were frustrated in their attempts recently to look at clients of UBS, Switzerland's biggest bank.
A draft G20 communiqué said that the financial system in future needed to be protected from off-shore and loosely regulated jurisdictions.
According to Downing Street sources Mr Brown is expecting a host of countries this week to agree to bi-lateral agreements about tax havens to show that they are «genuinely serious» about sharing information.
Switzerland is the biggest offshore centre and would previously only co-operate with foreign countries if investigators could prove specific tax fraud.
World leaders continue to arrive in London today. Barack Obama, his wife and entourage will fly into Stansted airport in Essex this evening before being flown by helicopter to Winfield House in Regent's Park, the home of the United States Ambassador to London.
Tomorrow he will hold breakfast talks with Mr Brown and the two leaders will hold a joint Downing Street press conference on the eve of Thursday's summit.
Mr Brown last admitted that night that he is still trying to thrash out an agreement with other world leaders and said there were long days of negotiations ahead.
Today, Mr Brown will attempt to use a rare speech by a Prime Minister in a place of worship to raise the curtain on the G20 and outline what principles the new world financial order should adhere to.
The speech will take place at St Paul's Cathedral and will focus on morality. Mr Brown will urge bankers and big business to take their lead from families and how children are taught right from wrong and not to put greed and short term gratification ahead of long term benefit.
However, that appears at odds with Lord Mandelson's assertion over the weekend that the time had come to stop «bashing» bankers.
Mr Brown will say: «In our families we raise our children to work hard and to do their best and do their bit. We don't reward them for taking risks that would put them or others in danger, and we don't encourage them to seek short-term gratification at the expense of long term value.»