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Drivers of Illicit Financial Flows

image of Drivers of Illicit Financial Flows

This study offers a comparative analysis of 42 countries, examining common trends among causes leading to illicit cross-border money transfers. Its findings support existing theoretical frameworks on the key drivers of illicit financial flows. Our analysis has identified that most countries that experience large transfers to offshore bank accounts are characterized by weak regulatory systems: i.e., shortcomings in the institutional capacities to detect, monitor and prosecute illicit financial flows are the primary drivers behind tax evasion. The growing availability of macroeconomic and governance data on developing countries provides avenues for more detailed research on illicit financial flows in the future. As alternative methodologies for measuring these flows become more sophisticated, there is both a pressing need and a huge potential for the advancement of a research agenda focusing on illicit cross-border money flows.

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Executive summary

Cross-border capital movements that serve to conceal illegal activities or evade taxation have been recently placed at the centre of the international agenda. Trade misinvoicing, profit shifting by multinational corporations, and offshore bank deposits to conceal the proceeds of crime or simply to avoid taxes, all deprive national treasuries of much needed resources - which could otherwise be invested in development. Vulnerable populations in developing countries are the most affected by the harmful consequences of illicit financial flows. Revenue losses due to illicit financial flows compromise development and impede the effective provision of public services in affected countries.

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