The Corruption Summit just concluded in London seems to have produced a strong and very clear statement on the effect of corruption and taken tough measures to ensure it is curbed. Prime Minister David Cameron has taken a lead in stopping the practices that impoverishes millions and sucks more money out of poor countries than the aid that is sent to help their economies grow. Africa has suffered enormous losses through these corrupt or legal but grossly unfair practices. Jophn Githongo, Kenya’s leading anti corruption campaigner who attended the conference, said it was a huge step forward in the fight against corruption.
The concluding document is remarkable. The commitment says: “We see tackling corruption as a top priority, at home and abroad. We will take action to prevent corruption and to ensure it does not fester in our government institutions, businesses and communities. We will seek to uncover corruption wherever it exists, and to pursue and punish those who perpetrate, facilitate or are complicit in it. We commit to make it easier for people to report suspected acts of corruption.”
The misuse of companies, other legal entities and legal arrangements, including trusts, to hide the proceeds of corruption must end. We will enhance transparency over who ultimately owns and controls them, to expose wrongdoing and to disrupt illicit financial flows. As recent events have shown, we need to take firm collective action on increasing beneficial ownership transparency.”
Britain whose flag flies over many tax havens where billions of corrupt payments have been laundered and fed back into the City of London, has taken the lead in establishing codes of conduct and transparency that go further than many had hoped.
And transparency is now becoming the norm. Six countries, Britain, Afghanistan, Kenya, France, the Netherlands and Nigeria, have signed up to publish who really owns companies in their territories and six more are committed to it. Eleven more countries will join the group where lists of beneficial owners are drawn up and shared between governments, although not publicly. Those countries include the once notorious tax havens: Cayman Islands, Jersey, Bermuda, the Isle of Man and the United Arab Emirates.
In the past when new governments of poor countries which had suffered under corrupt dictators tried to reclaim the money stolen and hidden in the UK or Switzerland, the courts in London often sucked out up to a third of the loot in legal fees.
Richard Dowden is Director of the Royal African Society
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