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Unmask the Corrupt launch

Written by Alice McCool on Wednesday, 20 August 2014

What’s the point of stealing money from your country’s corruption-resources-corruption-resources-health and corruption-resources-corruption-resources-education budgets if not to enjoy it? It turns out that the UK is a personal favourite for your average corrupt dictator.


The corrupt are not exactly known for being subtle. Their hallmarks are often flashy cars, luxury mansions, superyachts and private jets. Billions of dollars of corrupt funds are stolen and laundered each year. Yet for too long, the corrupt have been getting away with living the high life and enjoying their ill-gotten gains around the world – while citizens in their home country suffer.

But no man – or woman – is an island. The corrupt cannot operate alone. They need friends in other countries to help them hide and make the most of their stolen money.

Where would they be without their trusty estate agent to sell them their town mansion in Paris? Or how about those City and Wall Street banks who seem to welcome their corruptly-obtained money with open arms – and the clever accountant who does their books? Or the high-end Swiss art dealer who sells a masterpiece for millions, with no questions asked? And let’s not forget the savvy London PR team, ready and waiting to launder their client’s reputation.

For 20 years, Transparency International activists in over 100 countries have been fighting corruption on the ground and holding those in power to account. But the time has now come for these activists to come together with a single call: unmask the corrupt.

From the UK to Brazil Switzerland to Russia, Malaysia to South Africa, corruption fighters around the world are asking their governments to make life a little more difficult for the corrupt by:

  1.      Ending company ownership secrecy
  2.      Regulating luxury investments
  3.      Denying entry at borders

You can find out more about the campaign and these asks here

UK Unmasked: what’s the deal in Britain?

If you’re going to unmask the corrupt you’ve got to think about where these officials like to hang out. After all; what’s the point of stealing money from your country’s corruption-resources-corruption-resources-health and corruption-resources-corruption-resources-education budgets if not to enjoy it? It seems likely that the UK, particularly London, is a personal favourite for the corrupt.


But you’d think that Britain, a country which ranks relatively highly on issues such as transparency, open governance and human rights, would surely never allow money intended for development to end up in the pockets of London’s resources-resources-businesses?

Think again – according to our research. While it’s fairly common knowledge that millions, possibly billions, of corrupt funds are laundered in and via the UK every year the nature of the beast means we can only estimate the exact figure.

Another grey area is how the corrupt go about investing their money in the UK. That’s why we’ve also been looking into what the high risk sectors are and what they are (or are not) doing to prevent corrupt money from entering their supply chain. It may come as no surprise that the property market is particularly vulnerable to money laundering risks, and there are cases to prove it.

James Ibori

  •          Former Nigerian Governor
  •          Pled guilty to ten counts of money laundering
  •          Estimated by UK law enforcement to have embezzled £150 million of Nigerian public funds.
  •          Bought a house in Hampstead, north London, for £2.2m

Saadi Gadaffi

  •          Son of former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi
  •          Owned a £10 million home in Hampstead, London via a secretive company

After Gadaffi was deposed the UK’s High Court ruled against Capitana Seas Limited, ordering Saadi Gaddafi to return the mansion to the state of Libya

As we move forward with this research, we’ll be delving further into the role of the UK – specifically London – on why it attracts corrupt funds and where they go when they get here. We are also looking into solutions to the problem, and campaigning for their implementation, including:

  1. A potential law on corrupt enrichment – so that officials with unexplained suspicious wealth need to prove where they got it from
  2. Imposing stricter controls on visas for the corrupt – so corrupt officials don’t end up here in the first place
  3. Enforcement of the UK’s commitment to publish a public register of company owners – so we know which companies are owned by the corrupt

The world’s corrupt are living the jet setting luxury lifestyle of international superstars while the citizens they are supposed to be serving suffer. But corruption is not just a problem of lands afar. These individuals are being aided by the complicity and complacency of countries and banking centres that allow illicit financial flows and entry to the corrupt to enjoy stolen wealth.
Many TI activists around the world have recognised the UK as a vital player in corruption in their own countries as their national wealth is cleared through or transferred to Britain. This is happening on our doorsteps. Join us in putting a stop to this injustice.

How can you help unmask the corrupt?

The UK strand of the campaign will aim to reduce the role of London as a safe haven for corrupt money and individuals and will begin in early 2015. Keep up to date with our work on this via our website Twitter and Facebook. From today you can:

  1. Visit unmaskthecorrupt.com and take action
  2. Share these images on Facebook and Twitter
  3. Do your bedtime reading:

Ending secrecy to end impunity: tracing the beneficial owner
Leaving the corrupt at the door: from denial of entry to passport sales
Regulating luxury investments: what dirty money can’t buy
Closing Down the Safe Havens: Ending impunity for corrupt individuals by seizing and recovering their assets in the UK

 

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Read 8596 times Last modified on Tuesday, 24 November 2015 11:47

Alice McCool

Alice formerly worked for Transparency International UK as our Campaigns Officer. You can tweet her via @McCoolingtons.

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