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Time to close down the corruption casino

“The launch of the Euro should not descend into a carnival of money-laundering” - Peter Eigen, Chairman, Transparency International

If the money looted from Nigeria by the dictator Sani Abacha were returned by western banks to the people of Africa, it would be "vast enough to begin to turn the tide of the HIV AIDS epidemic, a tragedy that is threatening the lives of new generation in sub-Saharan Africa", said Peter Eigen, Chairman of Transparency International in the Hague today. In a keynote speech "CLOSING THE CORRUPTION CASINO: the imperatives of a multilateral approach" at the Opening Session of the Global Forum II Fighting Corruption and Safeguarding Integrity on 28 May, Eigen issued a challenge to the assembled governments to act to ensure the return of money looted from developing countries by corrupt leaders.

Eigen also called for a clampdown on the "carnival of money-laundering" that looks set to break out with the launch of the Euro. Expressing concern at the news that French parliamentarians were contemplating lifting their anti-money-laundering laws for a six months' "grace" period during the conversion to the Euro, he said the launch of the new currency "could well trigger the largest money-laundering exercise in the history of the human race".

"It is clear that the rush to move dirty money from the Balkans and the CIS from Deutschmarks to US dollars has already begun - and many economists argue that the flood to the dollar of this underworld money accounts for the Euro's continued weakness,"said Peter Eigen. "The current burst of economic activity in unlikely places across Europe points to a headlong rush to turn dirty money into bricks and mortar - a phenomenon that governments must surely monitor and investigate." International money-laundering arrangements are critical, he added, as long as the proceeds of "grand corruption" are spirited away to safe havens.

Eigen stressed the imperative of international co-operation on money-laundering in response to the recent statement by Paul O'Neill, the US Treasury Secretary, that he has "had cause to re-evaluate the United States' participation in the OECD working group that targets 'harmful tax practices'" Eigen told the audience in the Hague: "I sincerely hope that the election of the Bush administration does not signal a sea-change in the US stance towards international co-operation against corruption and does not herald a new "unilateral" approach." He continued: "I urge the US Government to consult promptly with the other OECD member-states, because US withdrawal from the effort to develop programmes to prevent the misuse of off-shore financial centres would represent a serious blow to effective international co-operation against corruption and money laundering."

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