On 12 May (Tomorrow), the British Prime Minister will host the Anti-Corruption Summit to step up global action to expose, punish and drive out corruption in all walks of life. In the wake of the summit, David Cameron was caught on set describing Nigeria and Afghanistan as fantastically corrupt.
The summit seeks to galvanize a global response to tackle corruption. As well as agreeing a package of actions to tackle corruption across the board, it will deal with issues including corporate secrecy, government transparency, the enforcement of international anti-corruption laws, and the strengthening of international institutions.
This comes just weeks after the Panama Papers thrust offshore secrecy and corruption into the international spotlight, and represents an historic opportunity to tackle crime, poverty and instability at the source. David Camron’s family was named in the Panama Paper scandal.
In a speech that announced the summit, Prime Minister David Cameron labelled corruption as ‘one of the greatest enemies of progress in our time’.
Corruption supports and maintains abusive regimes, keeps fledgling economies dependent on foreign aid, and deprives populations of basic services and the United Kingdom is party to this. For instance, several British Overseas Territories have built entire economies around selling secrecy, and the Panama Papers have shown the damage this does.
Over half the companies exposed in the Panama Papers leak were registered in UK tax havens, or ‘Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies’. Tax havens such as the British Virgin Islands and the Cayman Islands are some of the most popular places in the world to launder money and avoid detection by the authorities via the use of anonymously-owned shell companies.
Britain incentivizes corruption overseas by allowing people responsible for it to spend stolen money in their country. The corrupt use UK’s property market, legal and education systems to launder their reputations and funnel money out of their home states, buying yachts, mansions and art collections and sending their children to expensive private schools.
In return for investment in the country, they obtain a golden visas that allows them to claim safe haven and, in some cases, citizenship.
David Cameron had recently announced that his government will clamp down on corruption in the UK property market. Global witness reports that “Our recent investigations have revealed that corrupt officials use London houses as a safe haven for their stolen loot. What’s more, they often hide their identities behind layers of offshore companies. What the UK needs now is to shine a light on who really owns property in this country.”
It is currently far too easy for the criminal and corrupt to launder money through luxury property, hiding the real owners behind anonymous companies, often registered in secrecy jurisdictions like the BVI and hidden behind nominee directors.
According to Transparency International (UK), at least £122bn worth of property in England and Wales is now owned by companies registered offshore, and 75% of properties whose owners are under investigation for corruption made use of this kind of secrecy.
The scathing description of Nigeria by David Camron as “Fantastically corrupt” begs the questions as to why the UK aids criminals and turn around to accuse nations.
Although President Muhammadu Buhari and Afghanistan’s president are both attending the London summit alongside other world leaders, the last is yet to be heard of the ugly description of Nigeria.