On the eve of the 10th session of the UNCAC Conference of States Parties (CoSP) to the UN Convention against Corruption (UNCAC), Transparency International’s chapters from across 18 African countries appeal to you to make ambitious new pledges to respond to some of today’s most pressing corruption challenges. When you deliberate and negotiate new commitments, we ask you to remember that Africa continues to lose billions of dollars every year from the proceeds of corruption being siphoned abroad. To make a real dent, we urge you to adopt a resolution with new commitments to unlock the power of beneficial ownership transparency for anti-corruption and asset recovery.
We would like to bring to your attention Transparency International’s new report, Loophole Masters, released this week. The study confirms that corporate secrecy has been an essential feature of cross-border corruption schemes. This means that even when African nations endeavour to investigate and prosecute corruption stretching across borders, their efforts are likely to be blocked by the anonymity provided in so many parts of the world. The very same problem also impedes recovery and return of stolen assets.
In recent years, an international consensus has emerged on the need to stop the corrupt from hiding behind anonymous companies, including thanks to previous commitments you have collectively made. We recall, in particular, your resolution adopted at the 9th UNCAC CoSP, in which States Parties agreed that countries should adopt a multi-pronged approach to beneficial ownership transparency through mechanisms such as dedicated registers. Also welcome was the encouragement for countries to establish effective procedures for verifying information disclosed by companies.
It is now time to agree on measures to promote access and use of the data contained in the registers by all stakeholders who have a role to play in anti-corruption.
For this reason, we urge you to adopt a resolution which unequivocally calls on States Parties to ensure direct and unfiltered access to beneficial ownership information by law enforcement and financial intelligence units. Efficient access should be ensured to a wider range of domestic public authorities, and not only those with anti-money laundering mandates. Access should also be granted to civil society organisations, media and other relevant non-governmental actors, who have repeatedly demonstrated their invaluable role in uncovering corruption schemes.
We must also recognise that many African countries have already embarked on beneficial ownership transparency reforms, with good practices emerging across the continent. In the coming years, it will be critical to ensure that these and other newly created registers are effectively used to prevent, detect and investigate abuses.
However, the corruption schemes that have seen significant outflow of illicit funds outside of Africa have usually involved companies opened and administered in other parts of the world. Transparency International’s new report shows that countries where real owners of companies are shielded from scrutiny often appear as key transit and destination countries for outflowing funds. This makes it critical to ensure that information on companies’ real owners is expediently accessed or shared across borders.
We therefore urge the 10th UNCAC CoSP to reflect on the need to extend access to beneficial ownership registers to foreign authorities and to put in place new mechanisms for sharing information on companies’ real owners with their counterparts.
Thank you very much for your attention. We wish you fruitful deliberations.
Alliance Nationale des Consommateurs et de l’Environnement – ANCE-Togo (Transparency International Togo)
Association Burundaise des Consommateurs – ABUCO (Transparency International Burundi)
Association nigérienne de Lutte contre la Corruption – ANLC/TI-Niger (Transparency International Niger)
Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre – CISLAC (Transparency International Nigeria)
Corruption Watch (Transparency International South Africa)
Ghana Integrity Initiative (Transparency International Ghana)
Initiative pour la Justice Sociale, la Transparence et la Bonne Gouvernance en Côte d’Ivoire – Social Justice (Transparency International Côte d'Ivoire)
I Watch (Transparency International Tunisia)
Ligue Congolaise de lutte contre la Corruption – LICOCO (Transparency International DRC)
Rencontre pour la Paix et les Droits de l’Homme – RPDH (Transparency International Congo)
Social Watch Bénin (Transparency International Benin)
Transparency International Cameroon
Transparency International Kenya
Transparency International Madagascar
Transparency International Rwanda
Transparency International Uganda
Transparency International Zambia
Transparency Maroc (Transparency International Morocco)