'Stolen assets of developing countries must be returned,' PM Imran tells UN panel

Updated 24 Sep 2020

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Prime Minister Imran Khan addresses the  high-level panel on Financial Accountability, Transparency and Integrity. — DawnNewsTV
Prime Minister Imran Khan addresses the high-level panel on Financial Accountability, Transparency and Integrity. — DawnNewsTV

Prime Minister Imran Khan on Thursday called upon the international community to take steps to counter illicit flows of money, saying the "stolen assets" of developing countries must be returned.

Addressing a high-level panel on Financial Accountability, Transparency and Integrity (FACTI) on the sidelines of the ongoing United Nations General Assembly session, the premier said the global community must take "decisive actions" to stop "this bleeding of the poor and developing countries".

The event was convened to "present the interim report of the FACTI panel, which identifies the major gaps in the implementation and the systemic shortcomings of the existing international frameworks for tax cooperation, anti-corruption [and] anti-money laundering", the Prime Minister's Office said on Twitter.

Prime Minister Imran said Pakistan appreciated the initiative by Nigeria and Norway to establish the panel on international financial accountability.

Noting that billions of dollars illicitly flow out of developing countries each year, he said his government had come "with a robust public mandate to get rid of this menace from our country".

He said although the PTI government had taken several initiatives domestically, "what is required is strengthening international cooperation to bring perpetrators of financial crimes to justice".

The premier said the figures of illicit flows mentioned in the report released by the FACTI panel were "staggering".

"$1 trillion is taken out each year by these white-collar criminals," he noted. "$20-40 billion is in the form of bribes received by these corrupt white-collar criminals; $7 trillion in stolen assets is parked in these safe tax haven destinations; $500-600 billion is lost each year in tax avoidance by mutinational companies."

The premier proposed the following measures that the world must take to curb illicit financial flows:

  • The stolen assets of developing countries, including proceeds of corruption, bribery and other crimes, must be returned immediately

  • The stories in haven destinations must impose criminal and financial penalties on their financial institutions which receive and utilise such money and assets

  • The enablers of corruption and bribery such as accountants, lawyers and other intermediaries must be closely regulated, monitored and held accountable

  • The beneficial ownership of foreign companies must be revealed immediately upon inquiry by the interested and affected governments

  • Mutinational corporations must not be allowed to resort to profit-shifting to low-tax jurisdictions for avoiding taxation. A global minimum corporate tax could prevent this practice

  • Revenues from digital transactions should be taxed where the revenues are generated, not elsewhere

  • Unequal investment treaties should be discarded or revised, and a fair system for adjudication of investment disputes set up

  • All official and non-official bodies set up to control and monitor illicit financial flows must include all the interested countries

  • The UN should set up a mechanism to coordinate and supervise the work of the various official and non-official bodies dealing with illicit financial flows to ensure coherence, consistency and equity in their work.

Prime Minister Imran said the need of developing countries to protect their "precious resources" has become even more vital because of the recession triggered by the Covid-19 pandemic.

"Unless these steps are taken, the difference between the rich and poor countries will keep growing," he said, adding that the existing migration crisis "will be dwarfed by what will happen in the future" if the gulf keeps growing.

The event provided a forum to discuss priority actions on identified challenges, "particularly in light of the impact of the Covid-19 crisis on progress towards the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development", the PMO said.

It added that the event would also "foster a discussion amongst civil society, international institutions, academia and the business sector to explore the issues highlighted in the FACTI panel’s interim report".

In addition to his address to the FACTI panel, the premier also spoke at another event, 'Poverty at a Crossroad: Using Leadership and the Multidimensional Poverty Index to Build Back Better'. The event was co-hosted by Pakistan and Chile, Radio Pakistan said.

Developing countries have 'limited ability' to raise funds

Pakistan's Permanent Representative to the UN Munir Akram, in his closing remarks noted that the international community was faced by three "simultaneous global challenges": Covid-19 and its impact, the realisation of the 2030 agenda and sustainable development goals and climate change.

Akram said that adequate financing was key in order to realise the said challenges and it was imperative that countries raise sufficient domestic funds.

However, he noted, developing countries have "limited ability" to raise domestic funds due to "corruption, bribery, crime and tax evasion". The ability has further diminished, he said, due to the economic blows dealt by the pandemic.

He also called upon the international community to work towards ensuring that "stolen" money from developing countries is returned.

PM to address UNGA tomorrow

The prime minister is due to address the United Nations General Assembly tomorrow (Friday). His speech will focus on Kashmir dispute, the Foreign Office said earlier.

The general debate, which is the centrepiece of any UN General Assembly session, started from Tuesday.

The current session, which is the 75th session, is unique in the world body’s history with leaders not attending in person and other meetings being held online.

In his speech at the 74th UNGA session last year, PM Imran had highlighted sufferings of Kashmiris and the Indian action of annexing the occupied territory.