On the 12th May 2016, London held the anti-corruption summit hosted by David Cameron. The summit brought together 40 world leaders and several bodies with the motive of tackling global corruption.
Four key announcements of interest were made at the summit:
- David Cameron announced that this Government would introduce a public register of beneficial ownership for any company purchasing property in the UK. Those who already own property would also have to complete the register as well as those wanting a Government contract. This news comes as the UK PSC Register reaches its first month in force, which requires UK companies to produce, keep and maintain a register of people with significant control of that company. This is very interesting and is likely to lead to some surprises following its implementation.
- Such registers are the first of their kind and several countries are expected to follow suit. 40 other jurisdictions agreed to automatically share their own registers of company ownership which will be accessible to the police.
- The Prime Minister also consulted on reversing the burden of proof where there is suspicion that stolen money is being used to buy property, forcing the accused to prove that the money was accumulated legitimately.
- It was announced that an International Anti-corruption Centre would be established to help police and prosecute the corrupt across borders.
- A consultation on extending the criminal offence for failure to prevent economic crimes such as fraud and money laundering.
The event was somewhat shadowed by the Prime Minister’s comments to the Queen regarding ‘fantastically corrupt’ countries attending the summit.
However despite this, these announcements show an increasing emphasis on the global effort in tackling corruption. It highlights the issue of developed, ‘less corrupt’ countries harbouring the proceeds of corruption. The UK National Crime Agency estimate that hundreds of billions of dollars flow through British banks each year.
The Serious Fraud Office have also launched a probe into the engineering firm, Rolls-Royce’s on suspicion of bribery abroad. Estimations show that 100,000 properties in the UK (44,000 of which are in the capital) are owned by off-shore companies.
According to Financial Secrecy Index 2015, the UK is currently ranked the 15th in the world for its lack of transparency, only two places behind Panama. Practically, tackling corruption and the harbouring of funds on UK soil will be much more difficult than the PM infers. The two main bodies (the Crown Prosecution Service and the Serious Fraud Office) whose job it is to track down and prosecute have both have their budgets slashed by the current government.
It will be interesting to see the next steps in the following months of the summit.
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