News 24th Oct 2019

The UK Businesses helping the world’s corrupt embed themselves into British establishment: A new report from Transparency International UK

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Daniel Bruce

Chief Executive

Daniel joined Transparency International UK as Chief Executive in October 2019. He is an experienced senior leader in international charities, previously serving as Chief Executive of the press freedom and media development organisation Internews.

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I’m delighted to be launching Transparency International UK’s new report, At Your Service, which shines a light on the role played by UK services in some of the biggest corruption cases of our time.

From Argentina to Azerbaijan, businesses from Britain and its offshore financial centres have played a key role in over 400 corruption cases and around £325 billion worth of economic damage in recent decades. This is corruption that hurts the poorest in global society, hampers progress and equality, and for which there should be no hiding place for its proceeds in the UK.

Sadly, we’ve already become used to hearing about the financial institutions, legal firms and shell companies which play a critical role in laundering dirty money. But our team’s forensic analysis goes further by also lifting the lid on the schools, universities, architecture and interior design firms that – unwittingly or otherwise – provide corrupt individuals with services that enable them to move, hide and defend their ill-gotten gains with impunity.

The scale is staggering. In total, we have identified nearly 600 UK businesses and organisations which have received suspect funds from a range of rogues including former presidents, prime ministers and senior public officials who have been caught with their fingers in the till.

Among them are 177 different educational institutions, including some of the UK’s most prestigious, which received more than £4.1 million in suspicious funds from the industrial-scale money laundering operations exposed by the Organised Crime and Corruption Project (OCCRP).

Similarly, a total of £8.3 million was paid to 37 UK architectural and interior design firms from anonymous shell companies with Baltic bank accounts.

Estate agents, banks and all of the Big Four accountancy firms are also implicated.

It’s enough to sound the alarm but speak to anyone who has been working in this field long enough and they will tell you we have barely scratched the surface. Whilst Government has shown initiative in recent years, it should concern them and regulators that there are still too many who are willing to provide a helping hand to kleptocrats and other criminals. Our system for identifying and tackling dirty money needs a radical overhaul to deter British firms from becoming enablers of corruption.

This report couldn’t come at a more important time. As the UK seeks to renegotiate its relationship with the world, it should consider what it wants to be: a beacon of good governance and the rule of law, or a buccaneer floating off the coast of Europe.

As well as exposing the scale of the problem, we make numerous constructive recommendations which we consider essential to taking the UK in the right direction on this issue.

Do read the full report, share it with others and demand the end of the UK’s role in global corruption.