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Panama Papers expose UK role in global corruption

Recommendations to end UK role as a safe haven for corrupt money

The release of the “Panama Papers” has confirmed the UK’s role as a safe haven for corrupt individuals and their stolen wealth. Today, Transparency International UK launches a set of recommendations to end the UK’s role in enabling global corruption and calls on the Prime Minister to use the Anti-Corruption Summit on 12th May in London to take action.

“Paradise Lost” is a thorough analysis of the UK’s role in global corruption, outlining the multitude of ways in which the UK is enabling corrupt individuals to enjoy luxury lifestyles and cleanse their reputations. This includes:

  • The ability to buy UK property anonymously through foreign companies.
  • The UK’s Overseas Territories offering secretive company ownership.
  • Lack of powers for law enforcement to seize stolen assets.
  • Role of UK based accountants, lawyers, estate agents and other “professional enablers” in making it easy for corrupt individuals to hide their cash.
  • An anti-money laundering system that is easy to bypass in order to launder money with impunity.

Rachel Davies, Head of UK Advocacy and Research Transparency International UK said:

“The Panama Papers have confirmed that the UK is a prime location for corrupt individuals looking to hide their illicit wealth and buy their way into respectability.”

“Last year, the Prime Minister made a personal commitment to end the UK’s role as a safe haven for corrupt funds. Now is the real test of how serious that rhetoric is. The Anti-Corruption Summit on 12th May is the ideal opportunity for the UK to turn words into action. It must get its own house in order.”

“If corrupt individuals are allowed to continue to buy up luxury property and enjoy life in the UK, then the Government risks its credibility in leading efforts to tackle corruption on the global stage. Our recommendations lay the basis of what the UK must do immediately to ensure its hands are clean in the fight against global corruption.”

Key recommendations include:

  • Ensure the UK’s Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies introduce centralised public registers of beneficial ownership, and ensure corrupt individuals cannot buy UK property with impunity.
  • Act on unexplained wealth by increasing the capabilities of the UK’s asset recovery regime to seize corrupt funds.
  • Fix the flaws in the UK’s anti-money laundering regime – overhauling the supervision of the rules, and prosecuting complicit professional enablers.

The Panama Papers and the UK’s complicity:

  • Of the 214,000 corporate entities exposed, over half were registered in the British Virgin Islands.
  • Our research showed 36,000 properties in London are owned by companies registered in offshore jurisdictions.
  • The UK was the second most popular place for the Mossack Fonseca firm to operate. According to the ICIJ, Mossack Fonseca worked with 1,924 UK professional enablers to set up companies, foundations and trusts for customers.

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Dominic Kavakeb, Communications Manager
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