ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan on Thursday urged the world community to seek commitment from “haven” countries to return all foreign stolen or illegitimate assets, and develop international anti-money laundering legal instruments.

Addressing the virtual launch ceremony of the Final Report of the High-Level Panel on Inter­national Financial Account­ability, Transparency and Integrity for Achieving the 2030 Development Agenda (FACTI Panel) as a keynote speaker, PM Khan called for considering the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) proposal to freeze and return unexplained assets of foreign Politically Exposed Persons (PEPs).

The report presents 14 recommendations to reform, redesign and revitalise the global architecture so it can effectively foster financial integrity for sustainable development. Besides, it stresses for strengthening coordination and global governance related to financial integrity as an essential component of the common agenda for the common future of present and coming generations.

Urging for some quick concrete actions, the premier first emphasised on “a commitment by haven countries to immediately and unconditionally return all foreign assets that were shown to be stolen or whose legitimacy could not be explained. The OECDs proposal to freeze and return the unexplained assets of foreign PEPs is worthy of consideration.”

Urges ‘haven’ countries to freeze unexplained assets of foreign politically exposed persons

PM Khan asked the international community to initiate negotiations on the new international tax cooperation and anti-money laundering legal instruments like the Convention on Corruption.

The adoption of common principles identified by the FACTI Panel for application on all financial transactions, and establishment of a UN coordination, adjudication and mediation mechanism on illicit financial flows also comprised the quick concrete actions proposed by PM Khan who is now globally recognised for his efforts against corruption and money laundering for his decades long struggle to purge the country of the very evils.

The PM told the audience that his government had inherited a country with empty coffers, denuded by huge and accumulated trade and fiscal deficits, but more than that, by illicit financial outflows from our country.

He opined that the FACTI Interim Report confirmed that due to political and official corruption, as well as crime and tax evasion, trillions of dollars flow out of developing countries each year.

Seven trillion dollars in stolen assets are parked in the financial ‘haven’ countries. The flight of these vast resources from the developing countries is a principal cause of their under-development, poverty, inequality and political instability, he remarked.

The PM recalled that during the consideration of the Interim Report in September last year he had suggested several global policy actions, including immediate return of stolen assets, and penalties on the financial institutions, lawyers and accountants, and other enablers of corruption, crime and tax evasion.

The disclosure of the beneficial ownership of companies; a global minimum corporate tax; fair digital taxation; review and revision of unequal investment treaties; and a coherent mechanism for monitoring illicit financial flows set up under the United Nations were also part of his proposed policy actions, he added.

Expressing pleasure over the Final Report of the panel marking his proposed policy actions, the premier said it was a systemic problem, embedded within the international financial architecture.

It requires a systemic solution. It cannot be resolved by piecemeal or cosmetic actions. The magnitude of the illicit financial flows is staggering. If recovered and returned, they can have a transformational impact on the development prospects of the developing countries.

Quoting the report, the prime minister said it could enable the developing countries to eradicate poverty, reduce inequalities, build back better after the Covid-19 crisis, address climate change and strengthen human rights.

Published in Dawn, February 26th, 2021

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