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News 16 Dec 14

Illicit Outflows Rob Balkan Economies of $100bn

A study by Global Financial Integrity, GIF, says illicit money outflows robbed Balkan countries of the equivalent of more than 100 billion dollars during the last decade.

Gjergj Erebara
BIRN
Tirana

The report, released Tuesday, estimates the cost of illicit transfers by analyzing discrepancies in balance of payments data and direction of trade statistics, as reported to the IMF, in order to detect flows of capital that are illegally earned, transferred, and/or utilized.

The Washington-based research and advisory organization says illegal money transfers from developing countries and the ease of such transfers for money laundering is a major economic problem because it fuels corruption in developing countries and starves the same countries of investment.

Serbia is the country with highest financial hemorrhage in the Balkans, the report says. Between 2003 and 2012, it estimates that more than $45 billion (€36bn) disappeared from Serbia in illegal ways.

Bulgaria lost about $25 billion (€20bn) during the same period, followed by Croatia with $15 billion (€12bn).

Although much smaller in size than its neighbours, Macedonia lost an astonishing $5.2 billion (4.2 BN) during the same period, followed by Montenegro with almost $1.3 billion (€2.1bn) and Albania with $1.3 billion (€1bn).

“As this report demonstrates, illicit financial flows are the most damaging economic problem plaguing the world’s developing and emerging economies,” GFI president Raymond Baker said in a press release.

On a global scale, the report estimates that crime, corruption and tax evasion robbed developing countries of more than US$991.2 billion (€792bn) in 2012, a figure that is much higher than Foreign Direct Investment, FDI, and Official Development Assistance combined over the same year.

“Most troubling, however, is the fact that these outflows are growing at an alarming rate of 9.4 percent per year—twice as fast as global GDP,” continued Baker. 

“It is simply impossible to achieve sustainable global development unless world leaders agree to address this issue head-on... It is essential for the United Nations to include a specific target next year to halve all trade-related illicit flows by 2030 as part of post-2015 Sustainable Development Agenda.”

Fraudulent mis-invoicing of trade transactions was revealed to be responsible for the largest component of illicit financial flows from developing countries, accounting for 77.8 per cent of all illicit flows, the report notes.

The estimates included in this report are considered “extremely conservative” as they do not include many kinds of fraudulent transactions that are difficult to track, such bulk cash transactions.

During the last 20 years, many developing countries saw strong economic growth in terms of Gross Domestic Product and GDP per capita. But some economists warns that such figures are misleading since they do not take into account GDP distribution and inequality.

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