G20, China, corruption and asset recovery

G20, China, corruption and asset recovery

Behind the headlines at the G20 conference, the first such meeting hosted in China, is a new proposal by the Chinese on fighting corruption.

China, which is in the middle of an anti-corruption campaign that has seen hundreds of thousands of arrests and court cases in the country, wants to spread the net wider. Not only should money be returned by the people who stole it, but so should the people themselves.

China is now proposing world leaders adopt new High Level Principles on Cooperation on Persons Sought for Corruption and Asset Recovery, arguing that international cooperation is required to ensure the return of corrupt individuals to face justice.

In the Chinese context this raises a red flag: China scores just 37 on the 2015 Corruption Perceptions Index, indicating a serious problem with corruption, a score that has barely changed since the start of its anti-corruption campaign primarily because of its methods. These include forced confessions and a lack of an independent judiciary, which means that it is not possible to know if those arrested are political targets.

Given its push to win business around the world, China could have more impact on the G20 anti-corruption agenda if it took its commitment to investigate and prosecute Chinese companies that bribe foreign officials more seriously.

Stopping the tide dirty money

Trillions of dollars of illicit wealth are pushed through the financial system annually and they end up funding the luxury lifestyle of the corrupt, many of whom have fled their home countries. China’s well-known Operation Foxhunt has sought to locate and return corrupt officials now residing in a number of countries overseas, several of which are G20 members.

Transparency International believes corruption is a cross-border problem requiring cross-border collaboration between governments and law enforcement globally, and welcomes the fact that anti-corruption remains on the G20 agenda. But is the return of corrupt the only approach?

The G20 must realise that most of the world’s corrupt money is sitting in member countries. The buck stops with them to end the system that allows them to benefit from corrupt wealth.  We need real progress on forcing out the enablers of corruption: the secret companies that hide the wealth and the people who set them up. And the welcome mat should not be out for ‘investors’ – without doing the right checks to make sure their money is clean. – Cobus de Swardt, managing director, Transparency International

Denial of Entry v. Extradition

The new principles may seek to place emphasis on facilitating the return of people accused of corruption who have fled overseas and thus deny them safe haven. This approach would be a shift away from the current preventative approach the G20 has taken, adopting a Denial of Entry network in 2012 which seeks to ensure that corrupt individuals are denied the right to enter into countries in the first place, should there be conviction or sufficient other information.

Another preventative approach G20 countries should take is to strictly monitor the “golden visa” policies offered by certain jurisdictions (including G20 countries Australia, France, the UK and the US) that offer residency and/or citizenship to people who proffer significant investment sums.

We support a preventative approach. Our positions are here and we have run campaigns to promote denial of entry. The trouble is that not enough countries are doing the due diligence required to stop the corrupt from gaming the system.

The G20 should focus on stopping the instruments used to hide corrupt money – secret companies – and getting countries to enforce strict policing of the enablers of corruption that use these instruments: bankers, lawyers and real estate companies.

Extradition can take years and legal costs are high. Having extradition as a second option will add a weapon to the arsenal of corruption fighters. But stopping the corrupt from finding safe havens to enjoy their wealth comes first.

Editor's note: Later on 2 September, the fifth paragraph was amended to correct an error.

For any press enquiries please contact press@transparency.org

Latest

Support Transparency International

#18IACC: Call for workshop proposals now open!

The 18th edition of the International Anti-Corruption Conference to take place in Copenhagen from 22-24 October 2018 is thrilled to announce that the call for workshop proposals is now open. Help us shape the #18IACC agenda! Anyone interested in the fight against corruption is welcome to submit a proposal.

A redefining moment for Africa

The newly released Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) provides a good baseline for the African Union (AU) anti-corruption efforts in 2018. This year’s theme for the AU is “Winning the Fight against Corruption: A Sustainable Path to Africa’s Transformation.” As the AU rolls out its plan, this is an important moment for Africa to take stock of the current situation.

Perceptions remain unchanged despite progress in the Americas

In the last few years, Latin America and the Carribbean made great strides in the fight against corruption. Laws and mechanisms exist to curb corruption, while legal investigations are advancing and citizen anti-corruption movements are growing in many countries across the region. However, according to the Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) 2017, the region continues to score poorly for corruption. How can we explain this contradiction?

Slow, Imperfect Progress across Asia Pacific

While no country in the Asia Pacific region scores a perfect 100, not even New Zealand or Singapore, which both experienced their share of scandals in the last year, our analysis reveals little progress across the region.

Europe and Central Asia: more civil engagement needed

In 2017, authoritarianism rose across Eastern and South East Europe, hindering anti-corruption efforts and threatening civil liberties. Across the region, civil society organisations and independent media experienced challenges in their ability to monitor and criticise decision-makers

Rampant Corruption in Arab States

In a region stricken by violent conflicts and dictatorships, corruption remains endemic in the Arab states while assaults on freedom of expression, press freedoms and civil society continue to escalate.

Digging deeper into corruption, violence against journalists and active civil society

To mark the release of the Corruption Perceptions Index 2017, we analysed corruption levels around the world and looked at how they relate to civil liberties – specifically, the ability of citizens to speak out in defence of their interests and the wider public good.

Corruption Perceptions Index 2017

This year’s Corruption Perceptions Index highlights that the majority of countries are making little or no progress in ending corruption, while journalists and activists in corrupt countries risk their lives every day in an effort to speak out.

Social Media

Follow us on Social Media

Would you like to know more?

Sign up to stay informed about corruption news and our work around the world