Financial secrecy is no accident, a research and advocacy group has said, after the Maldives ranked as one of the most secretive jurisdictions in the world.
The Financial Secrecy Index, published by the Tax Justice Network, rates countries on their laws regarding the transparency of ownership structures, bank secrecy rules, financial reporting and disclosure requirements.
“The 2018 index is not directly comparable with 2013 and 2011, because as international standards have developed, the tests in the FSI have become much more demanding,” said a TJN spokesman. “What we can say though is that the Maldives has not demonstrated progress in opening up its financial system.”
The latest country report shows there is either partial or no public online access to information about bank secrecy and wealth registration.
It also shows that domestic and foreign tax evasion is not a criminal offence under anti-money laundering regulations.
“Countries which have the most secretive financial systems have often got there because they have allowed their governments to be captured by those with an interest in hiding money flows – criminals, money launders, tax dodgers and others who engage in illicit finance,” said the spokesman.
“The Maldives is no different, with Al Jazeera publishing a hard-hitting expose of money laundering with links to the heart of the government,” he added, referring to ‘Stealing Paradise’ which featured confessions from associates of former vice president Ahmed Adeeb about delivering stolen cash to President Abdulla Yameen.
“All of this is bad for Maldivians for many reasons,” the TJN spokesman said. “With the government focused on how it can help to facilitate thieves and money launderers, it loses focus on how it can help ordinary people.
“In many secrecy jurisdictions we have also seen inflation generated from the flood of questionable money, which makes it harder for ordinary people to afford the basics.
“It also damages the country’s international reputation, making it harder for the legitimate businesses in the Maldives to trade.”