World leaders pledge to tackle corruption at London summit – as it happened
Jessica Elgot Jessica Elgot
David Cameron and John Kerry have warned that corruption and terrorism are dual threats to the world’s economy and security, at a summit aimed at tackling graft featuring heads of state and business leaders.
Six countries, Britain, Afghanistan, Kenya, France, the Netherlands and Nigeria, have agreed to publish registers of who really owns companies in their territories, a so-called register of beneficial ownership. This is a key goal of anti-corruption groups. Six more, including Australia, will consider doing so.Ghanapoliticsonline.com
Laura Stefan, the anti corruption coordinator for the Romanian Academic Society, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena and business man Strive Masiyiwa take part in a panel discussion at the Anti-Corruption Summit held at Lancaster House
Laura Stefan, the anti corruption coordinator for the Romanian Academic Society, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena and business man Strive Masiyiwa take part in a panel discussion at the Anti-Corruption Summit held at Lancaster House Photograph: Frank Augstein/PA
Eleven countries will join the now 29-strong group where lists of beneficial owners are drawn up and shared between governments, although not publicly. Those countries include Cayman Islands, Jersey, Bermuda, the Isle of Man and the UAE.
The British prime minister used his opening speech to warn foreign companies that own around 100,000 properties in England and Wales that they will be required to disclose their ownership, one of a number of measures aimed at cleaning up London as an international centre for money laundering.
The US is one of the countries which did not sign up to the pledge to share registers of beneficial ownership, and Cameron said he would keep pushing the Americans to be more accountable, as well as efforts to improve transparency on island tax havens like the British Virgin Islands, which also did not sign up to sharing information.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani participates in a panel discussion
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani participates in a panel discussion Photograph: Paul Hackett/AFP/Getty Images
This concern was echoed by Allan Bell, chief minister of the Isle of Man, which has signed up to the information sharing, who said there wouldn’t be real progress unless the United States made its own tax havens, such as Delaware, more open.
US secretary of state John Kerry said he had been shocked at the extent of corruption in the world since taking on his role in the Obama administration.
We are fighting a battle, all of us. Corruption, writ large, is as much of an enemy, because it destroys nation states, as some of the extremists we are fighting or the other challenges we face.
Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari speaks after British Prime Minister Cameron opened the international anti-corruption summit
Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari speaks after British Prime Minister Cameron opened the international anti-corruption summit Photograph: POOL/Reuters
Cameron called corruption “the cancer at the heart of so many of the problems we need to tackle in our world” and said tax-dodging holds back growth and undermines security by making poorer citizens more vulnerable to “poisonous ideology of extremists”.
Nigeria’s president Muhammadu Buhari, who has made tackling corruption a key part of his leadership, called for the conference to agree swifter measures to return stolen assets. Cameron announced he would require overseas firms to sign up to a new public register if they own or buy property or if they want to bid for central government contracts.
Afghanistan’s president Ghani said corruption was fuelling his country’s political violence, and the fight against wrongdoing “should not be a fashion that is discarded with the next set of elections.”
Protesters dressed in top hats and a mask of Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron protest against British owned-tax havens during the Global Anti-corruption Summit in London
Protesters dressed in top hats and a mask of Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron protest against British owned-tax havens during the Global Anti-corruption Summit in London Photograph: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images
Cameron last month announced that the overseas territories and Crown dependencies – such as the British Virgin Islands and Jersey – had agreed to provide UK tax and law enforcement agencies with full access to company ownership details.
But campaigners say they are disappointed that the offshore territories are not pledging to create a public register, like the UK and others have promised to do. Adrian Lovett, deputy chief executive officer of anti-poverty campaign ONE, said:
ONE calls on countries who attended the anti-corruption summit to urgently implement gold standard policies that ensure fair play. To root out corruption, we need committed and robust action, crucially including the public disclosure of beneficial ownership of companies and trusts.
There were some notable omissions on the conference guest list, including any representative from Fifa during a plenary discussion on corruption in sport, while the organisation is plagued by a deep-seated bribery scandal.
Bermuda and the Cayman Islands were represented at the summit but others, such as the British Virgin Islands and Panama were not.
That’s all from me, thanks very much for reading.
Updated at 5.00pm BST
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Cameron is asked about the need to push overseas territories and crown dependencies to do more to be open and transparent over the registers of beneficial ownership.
He says the territories have come a long way in agreeing to the automatic sharing of information, and says that goes further than what the United States and some European countries have agreed.
If you think how far they have come in the last few weeks and months, I am convinced we will get them all over that bar [of automatic sharing of registers, which British Virgin Islands has not signed up to do].
The gold standard which I will push for as long as I have breath in my body, is public registers.
That is not just for small islands, it is the United States, China, India that I want to sign up as well.
Cameron admits there are challenges with the US, that the state of Delaware also has a lack of transparency. “We just have to work with all these countries to convince them to raise the bar,” he said.
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Cameron hails ‘coalition of the committed’
David Cameron has hailed a “coalition of the committed” for what he described as the biggest demonstration of political will to tackle corruption.
He says there is “nothing so powerful as an idea whose time has come” and that there are now 129 jurisdictions who have committed to implementing international standards to give tax information on request. He says those new standards have led to £50bn in extra tax revenue, “think of the roads, schools and services provided with that money”.
Today’s summit is not just about securing the agreements, it’s been a different kind of events, not having speeches and talking to ourselves, having open challenging conversations asking tough questions.
Cameron said there is a need for every country to reach a gold standard of a register of beneficial ownership made public, and he says that he includes crown dependencies and overseas territories in that.
This cannot be a fashion, we have to stay the course for the next 10 years and beyond.
We are talking about stopping the corrupt hiding their loot from authorities. When people steal from your country and hide it in mine, we can find it and return it to you.
Updated at 4.52pm BST
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President Santos is closing the session now. He says the “sisters and brothers of corruption are terrorism, drug trafficking, illegal mining”, which are all part of the same chain. He says heroin from Afghanistan and cocaine from Colombia can be connected to one drug dealer in the UK, and that’s why an international approach is necessary.
He says the Panama Papers show how corruption is “scared of the spotlight” and urges new protection for whistleblowers who he says are under great danger in many countries. Prosecution is also key, he says, because people have to know the process works.
Updated at 4.53pm BST
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Spanish Justice Minister Rafael Catala says that tackling corruption must go beyond laws and regulation, and become part of the culture. It is not enough to have laws and values, we need resources to change cultures, he said.
He says organised crime intensively uses technology, anyone defending the rights of citizens also need access to those tools. Society as a whole needs to foster transparency as a value, he says, as do private companies.
Corruption is not something that belongs to any country, it is an international scourge and the fight has to be based on international co-operation.
Updated at 4.54pm BST
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Baroness Scotland, secretary-general of the Commonwealth announces she will create an office of criminal and civil justice reform.
I intend to be a magpie for every single good idea to put in to a toolkit for implementation and change.
She also says she intends to create a Commonwealth standard of anti-corruption best practice, so companies can apply for a mark.
Updated at 3.30pm BST
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Perhaps another pointed comment at Cameron here from Maltese prime minister Joseph Muscat. He says we should not speak about “corrupt countries” but of individuals.
Updated at 3.22pm BST
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‘We inherited ‘fantastically corrupt’ system’ says Afghan official
An Afghan official, tasked with tackling government corruption, is the first to make a jibe at Cameron for his gaffe when speaking to the Queen.
We inherited, and I quote, a ‘fantastically corrupt’ system.
He says that in his country for the past decade “there has been enthusiastic international community partnerships willing to pour in billions into a country without thinking about the safeguards that were needed in order to ensure that money would be spent transparently and effectively.”
He says the country is now saving $200m dollars a year from anti-corruption efforts which “otherwise would have gone into the pockets of mafia and corrupt companies”.
Without political will, there is no way we can fight corruption. No impunity for officials or companies, is a must.
He says Afghanistan is blacklisting on average one company a week, with the list published online and updated every week, and he invites the UK to publish a blacklist of corrupt companies as well.
(I’ll try to update the posting with his full name and title but I missed it in the introduction.)
Updated at 5.02pm BST
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Barry Johnston, head of advocacy at ActionAid, said the summit will be remembered for what it will not achieve.
It’s good news that Nigeria, South Africa, France, Afghanistan and the Netherlands have used the summit to take action to publicly reveal the owners of secretive shell companies. David Cameron still hasn’t managed to get British overseas tax havens to meet the same standards.
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Oxfam GB’s chief executive, Mark Goldring, adds his voice to concerns that the communique from the anti-corruption summit does not go far enough.
If corruption is a cancer then this summit has delivered some pain relief but not the major surgery needed to heal the global economy.
Until tax havens are required to publish public registers showing who really profits from shell companies, the corruption and tax dodging revealed by the Panama Papers will continue undisturbed and millions of people in both the UK and the world’s poorest countries will pay the price.
Updated at 2.50pm BST
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Laura Stefan, the Romanian anti-corruption campaigner, says a culture change is not easy in places where corruption is forced by economic circumstances.
“We tend to think that anti-corruption is something everybody wants. The establishment, in many of the countries where this is a real problem, does not want it,” she said. “Because they risk losing their assets.”
Visithttp://www.theguardian.com/politics/live/2016/may/12/david-cameron-london-anti-corruption-summit-live for more