OECD, a powerful international organization whose members represent the world’s largest economies has issued a strong warning about the “threats and risks” posed by lawyers, accountants and other facilitators who help their clients commit and conceal financial crimes.
These “professional enablers,” often associated with the secretive offshore finance industry, “undermine not only the rule of law, but their own profession,” says the Paris-based Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development in a new report. While it stops short of concrete prescriptions, the report includes broad recommendations aimed at “targeting professional enablers and disrupting their activities.”
The “Ending the Shell Game” report, which cites reporting by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists in its opening paragraph, marks the OECD’s first detailed foray into the realm of criminal professional enablers, a wide term that encompasses a potpourri of whizzes with special skills, including tax advisers, wealth managers, lawyers, accountants, company formation agents and trust companies. Many of the OECD’s 37 member countries, including the United States, the Netherlands and Switzerland are home to hoards of professional enablers and have poor track records in holding the various sectors accountable.
Recommendations for countries include more education about the role of enablers in financial crime and tougher laws to hold them criminally liable. Where lawyers can too easily hide behind client-attorney privilege and refuse to share possible evidence of crime with law enforcement, for example, the OECD suggests that countries consider new legislation.
All countries, the OECD suggests, should create national strategies “to tackle professional enablers who actively participate in tax crimes and other financial crimes.”