Petition of the week: 240 billion us dollars wanted

The Paradise Papers reveal the extent of international tax avoidance. Gordon Brown, British prime minister, demands: Dry up the havens!

Chief representative of the fight against tax havens: Gordon Brown Photo: Reuters

Many former top politicians find it difficult to see their own influence wane. Some hold well-paid lectures, occupy talk show chairs or switch to business. The main thing is to stay in the public eye. Gordon Brown, the former British prime minister, also took on posts at the United Nations and the World Economic Forum after his resignation. Since this week, he has also turned out to be the chief representative of the fight against tax havens. With a corresponding petition, he wants to mobilize the masses.

For more than a year, journalists around the world worked on 13.4 million documents that were leaked to the Suddeutsche Zeitung. In the so-called Paradise Papers, they reported on a new scale of international tax avoidance. The main sensation was caused by the fact that most of the practices revealed were completely legal. At the latest now, therefore, somehow everyone agrees that something must be done about tax havens.

Gordon Brown, who already failed to do so eight years ago, is now starting a new attempt. In 2009, as host of the G20 summit in London, he had enshrined the famous blacklists on tax havens in the final document.

"However, these previous blacklists are toothless tigers. The list updated at the recent summit in Hamburg contains exactly one country: Trinidad and Tobago. That can’t be the goal," says Thomas Hauschild of the NGO Oxfam. Tax experts like Hauschild were not surprised by the revelations: "Swiss-Leaks, Luxleaks, Panama Papers. There have been so many revelations in recent years. The Paradise Papers will not be the last either."

Cause of the petition:

Hundreds of billions in funds are lost to the states every year due to tax tricks

This is what the initiator wants:

An international treaty banning tax havens

What he actually wants: To sell books

At least, if action is taken even now only timidly. According to an OECD estimate, countries around the world miss out on $240 billion a year due to tax dodges. "These are enormous sums that would be urgently needed to fight poverty, provide health care and promote women," says Hauschild.

Forcing concrete action

Ironically, much of today’s tax loopholes were created during the period when Gordon Brown occupied Downing Street as prime minister. Only toward the end of his term in office did the issue of combating tax havens get onto the agenda of the always pro-business politician.

This text is taken from wochenende. Always available from Saturday on the newsstand, in the eKiosk or immediately in the practical weekend subscription. And around the clock on Facebook and Twitter.

Now Brown wants to force concrete measures with his global petition instead of "name and shame". Starting with an international treaty that bans tax havens, enables sanctions and sets prison sentences for tax evaders. The G20, the world’s largest economies, could achieve this, writes Gordon Brown.

In just a few days, his open letter to the current G20 chairman, Argentine President Mauricio Macri, found more than a million supporters. As announced, Brown will soon hand over his petition in person.

Gordon Brown should be pleased with this media-effective move. His memoirs, in which he describes the 2009 summit in detail, were published a few days ago. The campaign that has been launched is unlikely to hurt the sale of his own paper.