(MENAFN- AFP) An investigative journalism group said Saturday it hopes publication of the "Offshore Leaks" database of secret tax haven accounts will inspire the leaders of the G8 to act on banking secrecy.
A day after the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists put data about thousands of private offshore companies on-line, director Gerard Ryle said it set an example for the leaders of the powerful Group of Eight, who meet on Monday in Ireland, where they will discuss cracking down on tax avoidance.
"The reason we are doing this now... (is) the climate has changed dramatically. We now have got world leaders coming out and saying this kind of information should be made public," Ryle said.
"We are actually doing what the G8 said it is going to do."
Late Friday the ICIJ, a collective of international journalists, opened up its so-called Offshore Leaks files of companies, trusts and funds registered in several banking havens to allow the public to examine them.
The group obtained the files more than one year ago and has been studying them for stories on how public figures around the world use offshore accounts to hide money.
But the database is so huge, the ICIJ said it hoped that making it accessible on-line would allow others to help with the research and produce more exposes.
Ryle said the database -- which contains the names of some 100,000 companies registered in places like the British Virgin Islands as well as directors and officers of the firms, but no personal information or financial data -- should inspire the G8 to develop its own registry.
"What we are doing is showing them what a registry of companies can look like," Ryle said.
"It's really up to the public and up to the leaders now that something concrete happens."
Dozens of countries led by the G8 are discussing how to crack down on tax evasion via offshore accounts by forcing some level of transparency and data sharing on havens like Switzerland, Singapore, the Cayman Islands and Bermuda.
In May the United States, Britain and Australia announced a joint effort to expose tax dodgers with an investigation of a massive cache of tax haven data that was leaked to the authorities -- some of which, the ICIJ said, appears to be the same files it has.
The Financial Transparency Coalition, a global network of advocates for a more transparent and just global financial system, said Saturday that the ICIJ's data is proof of a financial system that "legitimises industrial-scale tax avoidance," aids criminals and facilitates corruption.
"As world leaders gather for the G8, the ICIJ information is further proof that way too many banks, law firms and accountants conspire to rob countries of trillions of dollars of much needed revenue," the Coalition said.
"This is neither sustainable nor tolerable and must be fixed for the well-being not only of the international financial system, but for national and local governments."
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