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Estimating Illicit Flows of Capital via Trade Mispricing: A Forensic Analysis of Data on Switzerland-Working Paper 350

  • Alex Cobham, Petr Janský, and Alex Prats


This paper assesses the role of Switzerland as the leading hub for global commodities trading, in terms of the patterns of prices received by original exporting countries and subsequently by Switzerland and other jurisdictions. We find support for the hypotheses that (i) the average prices for commodity exports from developing countries to Switzerland are lower than those to other jurisdictions; and that (ii) Switzerland declares higher (re-)export prices for those commodities than do other jurisdictions. This pattern implies a potential capital loss for commodity exporting developing countries and we provide a range of estimates of that loss – each of which suggests the scale is substantial (the most conservative is around $8 billion a year) and that the issue merits greater research and policy attention. An important first step would be a Swiss commitment to meet international norms of trade transparency.

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Paper provided by Center for Global Development in its series Working Papers with number 350.

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Length: 38 pages
Date of creation: Jan 2014
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:cgd:wpaper:350
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  1. Clausing, Kimberly A., 2003. "Tax-motivated transfer pricing and US intrafirm trade prices," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 87(9-10), pages 2207-2223, September.
  2. Maria de Boyrie & Simon Pak & John Zdanowicz, 2005. "The impact of Switzerland's money laundering law on capital flows through abnormal pricing in international trade," Applied Financial Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 15(4), pages 217-230.
  3. Zdanowicz John S., 2009. "Trade-Based Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing," Review of Law & Economics, De Gruyter, vol. 5(2), pages 855-878, December.
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