The United Kingdom is hosting a Summit to tackle Corruption. Prime Minister David Cameron is paving the way to bring leaders of both private and public sectors to address the issue. Mr. Cameron would like to expand actions taken so far to expose corruption, to punish perpetrators and to eradicate the culture of corruption.
London is a pioneer with regards to establishing a database which compiles information on company ownership. The system should be ready by next month (June 2016) and should enable the government to identify current and future owners of almost 100,000 properties in the UK, especially those owned by foreign investors. Taking the idea further, a clear record will also become mandatory for organisations bidding for public contracts.
The summit became an important stage to gather the support and join efforts with other countries and international organisations such as the IMF and the World Bank. It is expected that France, Nigeria, the Netherlands and Afghanistan should also create their own databases on company ownership.
Prime Minister Cameron stated on Thursday (12 May):
The evil of corruption reaches into every corner of the world. It lies at the heart of the most urgent problems we face – from economic uncertainty, to endemic poverty, to the ever-present threat of radicalisation and extremism.
The President of the World Bank, Jim Yong Kim, delivered a speech in which he stressed the impact of corruption on people’s lives and how this issue has to be addressed:
Corruption is stealing from the poor. It undermines growth and prosperity twice over – not only in the act of siphoning away resources from their intended purposes, but in the long-term effects of services not delivered – the vaccines that are not received, the school supplies that are not delivered, the roads never built. As I travel the world, I see the corrosive impact of corruption on the lives of the poor and the resulting sharp decline of trust that citizens have in their governments.
[…] we know that successful anti-corruption efforts must feature multiple leaders both inside and outside of government, working together. While the global dialogue on corruption has often focused on corruption in the developing world, recent events highlight the role of policies and practices in developed countries that enable corruption. Studies have demonstrated that ill-gotten assets are often sheltered in developed countries, which further impoverishes developing countries.
These wider efforts follow the measures implemented by the British government since 2010 to fight tax evasion and tax avoidance. Also, Westminster passed legislation to tackle bribery, the so-called Bribery Act (2010).
Although it might look like an immediate response to the Panama Papers scandal, the summit was planned before the leaks were made available by the International Consortium of Journalists (ICIJ) last April. It’s worth to highlight that making use of offshore companies is not illegal, but they have been used for tax evasion and money laundering purposes.
Cameron’s efforts to fight corruption have been tarnished since he admitted owning shares of his father’s trust based offshore. According to the Prime Minister, he sold his shares in 2010 before taking office at Downing Street. The affair was left aside once the British leader has to cope with the upcoming referendum that will decide if the UK remains in the Europe Union.