Thabo Mbeki, the former President of South Africa and Chairperson of the High-Level Panel on Illicit Financial Flows from Africa summarized the stakes of the triennial general assembly and conference of the Pan African Lawyers Union when he said, "As Africans we still have a mountain to climb to reach the renaissance we need." He was one of the main speakers at the three-day conference that started in Yaounde, yesterday, June 5, 2014 chaired by Prime Minister Philemon Yang on behalf of President Paul Biya under whose patronage the meeting in taking place.
African lawyers through the theme of the conference, "Illicit financial flows from Africa: Sealing the leaks, management and repatriation of frozen assets", are determined to bring out a blue print document on ways of fighting the scourge of the illicit financial flows that is one of the greatest set backs to Africa's development. The focus of the conference is timely considering some estimates cited in the concept note of the meeting which states that, "Each year the total capital escaping African countries reach 50 billion U.S. Dollars. This amount corresponds to approximately twice the amount of Official Development Assistance (ODA) allocated to Africa." Officials of the Pan African Lawyers Union further cites a report by the Global Financial Integrity (GFI) which states that, "For the period spanning 30 years between 1970 and 2008, illicit financial flows between 854 billion and totaled 1.008 trillion."
The financial scourge caused by the illicit financial flow from Africa, the concept note of the conference states "is made possible by the 60 international tax heavens and secrecy jurisdictions that facilitate the creation and operation of disguised million companies, shell companies, anonymous accounts and fake charities. Other techniques used include money laundering and the transfer fee." Actors in the chain of the illicit financial flows, are those who do under-pricing, trans-pricing, money laundering and those who evade paying customs duties. According to the outgoing President of the Pan African Lawyers Union, Cameroonian-born Barrister Akere Muna, lawyers and accountants, are the most accused in the illicit financial flows. This is because lawyers are said to do the engineering by preparing the legal documents while accountants do the technical part which is the booking that permits the money to go out.
By the time the lawyers finish the Yaounde conference tomorrow, June 7, 2014 they must have proposed applicable international legal frameworks for the fight against illicit financial flows and the role of the legal professionals in the fight. They will have to draw much from the measures proposed by Thabo Mbeki and the Chairperson of Transparency International, Huguette Labelle during their speeches at the opening ceremony of the conference.