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Secrecy, or more specifically the use of secret companies incorporated in offshore jurisdictions, undermines money laundering investigations and leaves the door open for corrupt wealth – stolen from around the world – to be invested in high-end UK property.

The G20 leaders meet in Australia later this year. Pressure is growing on them to build on the commitments from last June’s G8 Summit on beneficial ownership.

 

The Queen has announced that the Government will introduce a new Serious Crime Bill which will aim to disrupt serious organised crime and strengthen powers to seize criminal assets, as well as a law to establish a public register of company beneficial ownership.

If you walk down a residential street in central London, the chances are that some, perhaps the majority, of property is owned by overseas buyers.

“It’s easy to think that corruption happens somewhere over there, carried out by a bunch of greedy despots. The reality is that the engine of corruption exists far beyond the shores of countries like Equatorial Guinea or Nigeria or Turkmenistan. This engine is driven by our international banking system, by the problem of anonymous shell companies, by the secrecy that we have afforded big oil, gas and mining operations and, most of all, by the failure of our politicians to back up their rhetoric.”Charmian Gooch of Global Witness, TED Prize winner 2014.

A default option of full financial transparency is needed to fight the scourge of money laundering and the EU has a leadership role to play, argues Mark Moody-Stuart.

At the G8 summit, David Cameron said the UK’s leadership of the Open Government Partnership (OGP) this year would “drive a transparency revolution in every corner of the world”. Has the Prime Minister’s promise been delivered in the UK’s OGP national action plan?

The civil war in Syria overshadowed coverage of this week’s G8 Summit in Northern Ireland. Yet that wasn’t the only item on the world leaders’ to-do list. Little noticed by reporters, the summit ended up producing some small but important advances in the global fight against corruption.

It has been striking how far and how quickly France has moved towards asset disclosure by government ministers in recent weeks, with parliamentarians to follow if a new law is passed. Striking also that when political will exists, galvanised by public outrage, transparency is not so hard to achieve after all.

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