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4 Apr, 2016

ASEAN parliamentarians call for transparency and tax justice in light of Panama Papers revelations

JAKARTA, 4 April 2016 — Parliamentarians from across Southeast Asia today issued a collective call for greater transparency amidst new revelations of widespread tax avoidance by elites worldwide.

A leak of over 11 million confidential documents from Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca, which became public on Sunday, has revealed abuse of offshore tax havens by political and economic leaders. Among those implicated in the leak were Cambodia’s minister of justice and the son of Malaysia’s prime minister.

In light of this information, ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR) urged regional governments to crack down on large scale corporate tax evasion and pursue more equitable tax regimes, as well as economic policies that protect poor and marginalized citizens and prioritize the public good.

“Offshore tax evasion has to be stopped. Multinational corporations and individuals evading tax should be hauled up in their respective countries,” said APHR Chairperson Charles Santiago, a member of parliament from Malaysia. “Intermediaries, especially financial institutions, must be investigated and charged as well.”

“Corruption erodes the very heart of the rule law and democracy and undermines efforts to secure justice and human rights. Tackling this type of widespread corruption therefore goes hand in hand with promoting a more just and equitable regional and global community,” Santiago added.

The leak reveals the extent to which political and economic elites, including prominent figures in Southeast Asia, have abused rules governing offshore tax havens, often to the detriment of the individuals and communities they purportedly serve. Parliamentarians cautioned that the revelations provide further proof of the need for ASEAN to take action to promote regional accountability and ensure that its people are protected from such self-serving behavior by elites.

“We must have a broader conversation about tax justice region-wide. We need to focus on creating an ASEAN Community that works to combat, rather than enable, the kind of unscrupulous behavior revealed by these leaks,” Santiago said.

“Ultimately, this is about more than just tax dodging. It is about what type of regional and global community we hope to be. As the ASEAN integration process continues, safeguards must be put in place to ensure that the benefits are broadly felt and that elites are not able to abuse the system for their own personal gain,” he added.