Transparency International UK has welcomed today's report from the Parliamentary Select Committee on International Development. "The Committee has done an excellent job in reporting to Parliament and the public on the question of corruption from an international and development perspective" said Mr Laurence Cockcroft, Chairman of Transparency International UK (TI-UK).
Mr Cockcroft praised the Committee for recognising the critical role that 'grand corruption' can play in perpetuating poverty, through the diversion of funds from active support for the two billion people in the world who live in real poverty. In doing so, today's report covers much of the ground on which TI-UK has been campaigning for the last seven years.
"The question of global corruption is a particularly important issue for the UK" said Mr Cockcroft. "As a major investing and trading nation, we have a critical responsibility to ensure that neither our laws nor our institutions assist directly or indirectly in the export of corruption."
The Committee has now provided the Government with a clear agenda containing the following elements:
- Passing legislation to bring the UK into line with its fellow member OECD states by criminalising a bribe paid overseas;
- Abolishing the current absurd situation where a bribe paid overseas is tax deductible because it is not a criminal act;
- Ensuring that the new powers of the Financial Services Authority are sufficient to ensure that banks really do "know their customer" and that there is no repeat of the Sani Abacha situation where funds were held in more than twenty UK banks;
- Ensuring that the FSA requires UK banks to examine very carefully their links with corresponding banks for whom the automatic transfers associated with 'corresponding bank status' may simply be a laundering device;
- Giving the newly proposed National Confiscation Agency the power to return financial and other assets to the country from which they have been stolen (as opposed to having the pay these proceeds into the UK Exchequer);
- Expanding the powers of the SFO into a really effective anti-corruption agency with full powers to deal with fraud as well as corruption (not currently part of its remit);
- Adding to Company Law, as part of an ongoing revision process, a requirement that companies should be required to publish a Code of Practice, which deals with corruption.
"These and other closely related measures would go a long way to showing the world that the UK means to play an active and forceful role in the fight against corruption" said Mr Cockcroft. He expressed concern that without these measures the UK will justifiably be seen as indifferent to the consequences of what he calls "two-faced talk and contradictory inaction" by the UK authorities, particularly in respect of the flow of laundered funds through London (some of which constitute the proceeds of deals achieved through bribery). "It is difficult to believe that a government once committed to an ethical foreign policy cannot make these tasks one of its top priorities", Mr Cockcroft concluded.
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