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Finland performs poorly in financial transparency comparison, watchdog says

Out of 141 countries, Finland ranked 88th on the Tax Justice Network's Financial Secrecy Index.

According to the Tax Justice Network, the world loses the equivalent of one nurse's annual salary to a tax haven every second, or 60 times a minute. Image: Tiina Jutila / Yle

Corporate watchdog group Finnwatch said that Finland ranked poorly on the latest Financial Secrecy Index.

The biannual rankings are compiled by the Tax Justice Network, a UK-based advocacy group made up of researchers and activists concerned about tax avoidance and tax havens, among other tax transparency issues. Countries with greater transparency issues are ranked at the top of the index.

While Finland ranked well below countries at the top of the most recent index — including the US, Switzerland, Singapore, Hong Kong and Luxembourg — Finnwatch said the Nordic country is doing particularly poorly in terms of corporate ownership transparency.

In Finland, Finnwatch explained, data on the registries of ownership beneficiaries are not available to everyone, and only the largest corporate owners are listed in the registry.

Finnwatch said this arrangement has made it more difficult to trace the assets of Russian oligarchs who are subject to sanctions.

"Investigative journalists and NGOs in Finland are required to apply for permission to obtain beneficiary registry information. Additionally, the registry is difficult to use. In order to get data from the registry, you really have to know what you're looking for," Finnwatch's tax expert Saara Hietanen said in a statement.

Finnwatch emphasised that transparency shortcomings increases the risk of corruption and also makes it more difficult to investigate and uncover money laundering and tax evasion.

The organisation also noted that requests for corporate financial statements from the registry are subject to a fee, and that court decisions about tax-related issues are not made fully public nor available free-of-charge.

According to the Tax Justice Network, the world loses the equivalent of one nurse's annual salary to a tax haven sixty times a minute. The group explained their mission in an animated graphic presentation (siirryt toiseen palveluun).