Governments across the world are cracking down on tax havens, but some of those very same governments are equally touting their countries as offshore financial centres. Annette Young talks to John Christensen, director of the Tax Justice Network, about how these nations, such as Britain, are suffering from what he calls the "financial curse", where their oversized financial sectors ironically hinder economic growth.
In Washington, Brussels and Paris, one issue has taken centre stage: tax evasion. While US senators grilled Apple executives for avoiding high taxes, European leaders vowed to crack down on fraud and French lawmakers looked into a recent scandal involving a government minister.
French dailies are dominated by the European summit in Brussels, where leaders are pushing to clamp down on tax havens. The suicide of a man in Paris's Notre Dame Cathedral sparks the admiration of far-right politicians. And Algerians are still left wondering about the state of president Bouteflika’s health, as well as his whereabouts.
France’s parliament on Tuesday opened a public inquiry into a tax fraud scandal involving ex-budget minister Jérôme Cahuzac, which shook the country’s confidence in its government and called President François Hollande’s leadership into question.
In another instance of governments cracking down on tax evaders in hard economic times, France has asked Swiss authorities for help determining whether 353 French clients of the Swiss bank, UBS, were trying to cheat the taxman by having undeclared assets in Switzerland. On Wednesday May 15, official figures from the EU's statistics office showed the French economy had contracted by 0.2% in the first quarter of this year, officially entering a recession.
After just one year in power, the French president re-defines the word "unpopular". Only a quarter of the French population approve of him. His leadership is in question. Yet he does have several political achievements he can point to. Parliament has authorised gay marriage, François Hollande acted decisively in Mali to take the country back from jihadists and it seems he has managed to distance himself from the lies and deception of his former budget minister.
Former Interior Minister Claude Guéant is back in the headlines: he’s accused of laundering money for Nicolas Sarkozy’s presidential campaign. Le Figaro has an interview from the man who escaped the Taliban - the former French hostage tells his story. And Uruguayan scientists develop a genetically modified breed of sheep that glows in the dark.
Transparency, transparency, transparency... President François Hollande has already forced his ministers to publicly declare their assets. He is now hoping to force lawmakers and local officials to follow suit. This is not going down well with the opposition - of course - but also within his own Socialist camp, where some are wondering if the president is not going too far.
This week, tempers continue to flare in Parliament and in the streets over a government bill to legalize gay mariage and adoption. Also, this week, is the big clean-up of French politics for real? In the wake of a major scandal involving one of his ministers, François Hollande is pushing a daring agenda to force politicians to declare their assets.