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Vicar lends the City a hand

12 July 2013

by Joe Ware

A VICAR from Hackney has become the central figure of a new documentary film that uncovers the shady dealings of the City of London and its use of tax havens around the world.

Directed by Mark Donne, The UK Gold was launched at a premiére at the Troxy Cinema in London. The film, narrated by the actor Dominic West, and with a soundtrack by Thom Yorke of Radiohead, reveals the extent to which UK-backed tax havens, such as the British Virgin Islands and the Cayman Islands, facilitate tax-avoidance and tax-evasion around the globe.

The Vicar of St Thomas's, Stamford Hill, in Hackney, the Revd Dr William Campbell-Taylor (above), takes a journey into the murky depths of corporate finance, and reveals the extent to which funds are diverted through Crown dependencies to avoid tax authorities both at home and in the developing world.

Dr Campbell-Taylor said that he was shocked at what he discovered making the film. "I can see the City of London from my parish in Hackney, and I've often wondered what what goes on over there does for us over here," he said.

"This film is about joining the dots and showing the connection between those with power and wealth and those without.

"I hadn't realised the extent of the impact tax-dodging has on aid and the developing world. There are countries in Africa struggling because the City is helping companies that operate there to channel funds through havens and avoid paying the taxes they owe."

Christian Aid estimates that $160 billion a year is lost by developing countries to corporate tax-dodging, more than twice the total amount they receive in aid.

In the film, Dr Campbell-Taylor acknowledges that, although many of the individuals who work in the City are hard-working family people, he describes the current system as having "'demonic" elements.

He said: "We're in dark days right now, but the Church should be a place where we can deal with dark things and examine this problem. Our scriptures and traditions give us a way of looking clearly at the world.

"We need to have more confidence to address this theologically and morally rather than seeing it simply as an economic issue."

Despite receiving encouragement from many parishioners for taking on such a clandestine and powerful body, Dr Campbell-Taylor said that some people in the City had lobbied the Bishop of London, the Rt Revd Richard Chartres, to move him to a rural parish where he would cause them less trouble.

He said: "The motto of the City of London is 'Domine, dirige nos' - Lord, direct us. I'm just doing my bit to help them."

His blog is at hackneypreacher.com.

Joe Ware is Church and Campaigns Journalist for Christian Aid.

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