Yacht Seizure Unlikely to Benefit Equatorial Guinea

Foto Ginopress/ANP (as seen on NRC.NL)

In a recent interview for an article written, in Dutch, by Marit Willemsen of NCL.NL, I explained that seizing assets belonging to Equatorial Guinea’s ruling Obiang family will hardly bring benefit to the inhabitants of the oil-producing former Spanish colony, located in central Africa.

Should Dutch prosecutors be successful in the forfeiture of a yacht, supposedly belonging to Teodorin Obiang (TNO), the son of the the country’s president, they will face difficulties giving the money back to Equatorial Guinea in a manner that won’t benefit the Obiangs ultimately.

Prosecutors had better concentrate their resources on prosecuting those who help such rulers launder the proceeds in their territory. And they should also assist countries that are really involved in claiming looted assets back.

Tax-fraud case against UBS tests a new way to fine financial crimes in France.

The trial may herald “a change of paradigm” in how France combats financial crimes, according to Stephane Bonifassi, a criminal lawyer in Paris.

UBS Group AG will stand trial in France in a tax-fraud case that may leave the Swiss bank open to a fine of as much as 4.9 billion euros ($5.3 billion).

The bank, which posted a 1.1 billion-euro bond to cover any potential penalties three years ago, said on Monday that it will have to answer charges that it helped wealthy clients evade taxes by stashing funds overseas. The criminal case is coming to court after settlement talks with French authorities broke down over the size of the fine. No date has been set for the trial. Read more

With Deferred Prosecution Agreements now allowed in France, the investigation into fraud at Airbus to move more swiftly.

Kentaro Iemoto via Flikr (CC BY 2.0)

For this article in Global Investigations Review about Airbus’s alleged corruption case, Stéphane Bonifassi explained how Deferred Prosecution Agreements, now a part of France’s legal landscape, will help cooperation between prosecutors in France and the UK.

Read the article (subscription-based)

Loi Sapin 2 : « Le Parlement doit réintroduire la transaction pénale »

Dans son avis écartant du projet de loi Sapin 2 un mécanisme novateur de transaction pénale pour les infractions de corruption, le Conseil d’Etat sermonne le ministre en ces termes :

«… En l’absence de contradiction et de débat public, l’intervention de la justice perd sa valeur d’exemplarité et la recherche de la vérité s’en trouve affectée. »

Le Conseil d’Etat semble donc penser que la justice pénale actuelle, qui ambitionne de mener chaque dossier de corruption devant une audience de jugement, permet « exemplarité » et « recherche de la vérité ».
Pour ceux qui suivent ces affaires, cela fait au mieux sourire.
Les rares affaires qui sont jugées, souvent plus de dix ans après les faits, se terminent par des relaxes ou des peines de prison avec sursis et de faibles amendes. L’exemplarité est nulle. Quant à la vérité, tout le monde a oublié au moment du jugement quels étaient les faits et les protagonistes (s’ils sont encore vivants).

The Global Impact of the Panama Papers Leak

Following the leak of what we’ve now come to know as the Panama Papers, I joined Pascal Saint-Amans, Director of the OECD’s Centre for Tax Policy and Administration, Friederike Röder, France Director of the NGO One and Serge Michel, a journalist at Le Monde, on the TV channel France 24, to share my thoughts about the global impact of this leak.

Here are my four main points:

1. Because of an efficient US tax fraud policy, there are very few Americans included in the Panama Papers.

French newspaper LeMonde addressed this phenomenon in its article – the one I reference in my interview. And The New Yorker also posed this question in its coverage of the Panama Papers, presenting some of the same points.

2. Public registries of companies’ beneficial ownership is not the magic wand some people think it is. Public registrars are not armed to check the information provided to them on such a complex issue as the identity of a beneficial owner. The World Bank STAR initiative took on this topic in its “Puppet Masters” report, to which FraudNet gave its contribution.

3. Companies’ service providers (and this includes law firms) should always have the information about beneficial ownership available. This information should be available on the basis of a judge order for law enforcement as well as for victims of fraud. Law firms, when they act as company service providers, should not abuse legal privilege or confidentiality rules, as in the case of Mossack Fonseca.

4. Finally, I raised the question as to whether whistleblowers should be rewarded as the US legislation provides for.

    Watch the two-part debate here:
    “Haven Forbid: Panama Papers, how to stop tax dodging?” on France 24

ICC FraudNet is an international network of independent lawyers who are leading civil asset recovery specialists in each country. Recognized by Chambers Global as the world’s leading asset recovery legal network, our membership extends to every continent and the world’s major economies, as well as leading offshore wealth havens that have complex bank secrecy laws and institutions where the proceeds of fraud often are hidden. Founded in 2004 by the Paris-based International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), the world’s business organization, FraudNet operates under the auspices of the ICC’s London-based Commercial Crime Services unit.

ICC FraudNet is an international network of independent lawyers who are leading civil asset recovery specialists in each country. Recognized by Chambers Global as the world’s leading asset recovery legal network, our membership extends to every continent and the world’s major economies, as well as leading offshore wealth havens that have complex bank secrecy laws and institutions where the proceeds of fraud often are hidden. Founded in 2004 by the Paris-based International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), the world’s business organization, FraudNet operates under the auspices of the ICC’s London-based Commercial Crime Services unit.