Gearing up for anti-graft summit

Leaders from more than 40 nations are due to attend the Anti-Corruption Summit in London next week which aims to secure a global commitments to fighting graft.

An international anti-corruption body to help law enforcement agencies and investigators track down money laundering and tax evasion is to be one of the central proposals of the summit hosted by David Cameron.

The UK Government’s anti-corruption adviser, Sir Eric Pickles, said the new body would not have enforcement powers but would act as an information exchange for governments fighting corruption.

International sporting bodies including Fifa and Uefa are also due to sign a joint statement committing them to fighting bribery.

The summit follows in the wake of the Panama Papers revelations which exposed grand-scale tax evasion and has led to demands for increased transparency measures.

This includes the requirements for countries to hold central registers of beneficial ownership of companies, making it difficult for corrupt officials and criminals to launder money through so-called shell companies.

The UK, Germany, France, Italy and Spain announced last month that they will automatically exchange information on beneficial ownership to show who really owns and controls their companies and trusts.

The so-called ‘G5’ economies have also written to their colleagues in the G20 urging them to adopt the same measures.

What makes this summit different from previous meetings is that it will not rely on consensus, meaning governments will sign up to commitments that they are willing and able to deliver. This innovation will avoid the summit being a mere talking shop with a watered down agreement that achieves little.

The Summit is Prime Minister David Cameron’s major diplomatic initiative of the year, but transparency campaigners have called on Britain to get its own house in order, specifically relating to its Overseas Territories, some of whom were implicated in the Panama Papers.

At a recent AERL meeting, economic attachés asked the Treasury Minister David Gauke MP what measures was Britain putting in place to improve transparency in the Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies.

The Minister responded that Britain’s Overseas Territories were already meeting international standards in terms of automatic exchange of information and he hoped that by the time of the summit, all would have signed up to the keeping of central registers of beneficial ownership.

Gauke added that the UK was one of only “a handful” of countries that had agreed to open up to the public the central register of beneficial ownership, but many overseas territories have insisted that these registers should only be open to law enforcement bodies.