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An international development charity has turned its focus on soccer clubs to highlight the tax-haven secrecy that is costing the lives of hundreds of thousands of children in poor countries.

Twenty-five clubs are now based offshore, including 15 in the English Premier League, according to Christian Aid’s hard-hitting new report, “Blowing the Whistle: Time’s Up for Financial Secrecy.”

Christian Aid says tax-haven secrecy can jeopardize the very existence of much-loved clubs because it hides the true state of owners’ finances from supporters and creditors alike until the money runs out.

Furthermore, Christian Aid continues, this same tax-haven secrecy also facilitates “massive tax dodging” by individuals and unscrupulous companies in poor countries.

The charity estimates that as a consequence of financial secrecy, developing countries lose around $160 billion in trade-related tax dodging every year.

If the money were used according to current spending patterns, it could yearly save the lives of 350,000 children under the age of 5.

“The money lost to poor countries as a result of tax dodging by companies either trading independently, or as part of multinational groups, is around one and a half times the size of the international aid budget,” said Alex Cobham, Christian Aid’s chief policy adviser. “It is a scandal that must be stopped.”

In its report, Christian Aid joined forces with the Football Supporters’ Federation and sports ownership and governance group, Supporters Direct, to highlight the damage that financial secrecy can cause and demand urgent reform.

Soccer “may seem an unusual subject for Christian Aid to tackle,” Cobham said, “but we want to draw attention to the widespread damage financial secrecy can cause.”

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