Leading economists are urging G20 leaders to establish a global asset registry to track tax evaders who may pressure Russia over invading Ukraine by exposing the oligarchs’ hidden wealth.
Leading economists Joseph Stiglitz of the United States and Thomas Piketty of France, among others, made the call in an open letter published in The Guardian newspaper ahead of Wednesday’s G20 finance meeting.
Building on advances in financial information sharing in recent years, “it’s time for a global asset registry to target hidden wealth,” the letter says.
It was signed by members of the Independent Commission for the Reform of International Business Taxation (ICRICT), a think tank.
The group suggests creating “a network interconnecting all national asset registries of all the different forms of wealth an individual may possess where they already exist while encouraging all countries that have not yet created comprehensive asset registries active in doing so”.
In addition to real estate, bank accounts, and other types of legal arrangements, this could include crypto assets, luxury items, and even intangible assets such as intellectual property and trademarks.
Western powers have rolled out a series of tough sanctions against Russian President Vladimir Putin and his allies since he launched his invasion of Ukraine in February.
Among those targeted is the billionaire owner of Chelsea Football Club, Roman Abramovich.
Russian oligarchs are estimated to hold ‘at least $1 trillion in wealth overseas, often hidden in offshore companies whose true ownership is difficult to determine’, the letter says, adding that the problem is not limited to to Russian billionaires.
“On this wall of opacity, the efforts of countries that want to sanction them are now coming up against,” he added.
While populations are suffering from the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, “Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has aggravated this already worrying context”, with rising prices and insecurity, he said. he adds.
“We now have a unique opportunity to make progress in building a global asset registry” to cut through the shell company network and connect all kinds of assets to their true owners.
“This would provide a way to record, measure and understand the distribution of global wealth and thus give governments and citizens a deep and detailed understanding of global inequalities,” the statement said.