the way of the cross of an outstanding negotiator

It’s a patience game. An endless game in which the cards are rarely those expected. Anyone would have given up. Not Pascal Saint-Amans, who delivers, in Tax heavens. How we changed the course of history (Threshold, 320 pages, 22 euros), the story of fifteen years of diplomatic-financial negotiations. Director of the tax center of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) until October 2022, this senior French civil servant, who has the public service pegged to the body, shows how difficult, tedious and sometimes discouraging to regain ground from tax havens and power from multinationals, which do everything to pay less tax.

Did he succeed? The one who now teaches international tax policy in Lausanne (Switzerland) tells in detail how he had to face the exhausting hesitations of the States. He reveals that he has sometimes had unexpected allies: Donald Trump, who will pave the way for the global minimum tax; the Luxembourger Jean-Claude Juncker, ex-head of government of a tax haven, who will mark his end as President of the European Commission, or Vladimir Poutine organizing the most effective fight against tax evasion in the world – all the funds cash registers being directly linked to the computers of the tax authorities – and, at a decisive moment, supporting the fight against fiscal opacity to bring back the capital of the oligarchs.

In this game of patience, we discover above all that nothing would have happened without the repentants, who, willingly or by force, made it possible to uncover the tricks of the system and its extent. It started in 2007 after the forced confession of a UBS banker in the United States, which was decisive in the fall of Swiss banking secrecy. Their “leaks” “Offshore Leaks” (2013), “LuxLeaks” (2014), “Swiss Leaks” (2015), “Panama Papers” (2016), “Paradise Papers” (2017)… –, taken up by the media around the world, kept the pressure on the States, blocked by the difficulty of finding compromises at one hundred and forty.

Concrete progress

One cannot help, reading the minutes of the summits and then the videoconferences at the highest level, from sharing the impatience of the NGOs and certain economists, exasperated by the slowness or the limited nature of the progress. But we must not minimize the concrete progress achieved throughout these fifteen years: the end of banking secrecy and above all the automatic exchange of information between States have made it possible to recover 114 billion euros in global tax revenue .

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