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'Fantastically corrupt' countries doing more against corruption than UK tax haven

18 August 2016 - Countries described by David Cameron as 'fantastically corrupt' are doing more to clean up their acts than UK tax haven the British Virgin Islands, it was revealed this week. 
 
Nigeria and Afghanistan are among a list of nations that have agreed to tell other countries who really owns the companies they host, which has the potential to be a massive help to police and others fighting international corruption.
 
The two countries - which the former Prime Minister described to the Queen as 'possibly the two most corrupt countries in the world', appear in the list which was updated yesterday (17th August) by the UK government.
 
Notably absent from the list is the UK's own British Virgin Islands - a notoriously secretive tax haven which featured heavily in the Panama Papers scandal.
 
Other notably absent countries include the United States, Switzerland, Singapore and Panama.
 
The UK itself is in the list, however, along with most of the tax havens it controls. Other countries listed include Afghanistan, Nigeria, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Ireland and France.
 
Toby Quantrill, Principal Economic Justice Adviser at Christian Aid, said: "By this important measure, two 'fantastically corrupt' countries are doing more to help fight the menace of corruption than UK tax haven the British Virgin Islands.
 
"This is a shocking and shameful situation, which Theresa May's government can and should move immediately to correct.
 
"Since the previous Prime Minister demanded action this year, other UK-controlled Overseas Territories like the Cayman Islands are improving their transparency. There is no excuse for the British Virgin Islands not to step into line with this international standard.
 
 “Corruption hurts people all over the world - in the UK and also especially in developing countries. When public money gets stolen, there is less money to fund care for old and vulnerable people, for children's education, for healthcare and so on.
 
"The British Virgin Islands is at the heart of the world's corruption problem. Sharing information with other countries about who really owns the myriad companies it hosts would be a significant step in the right direction, although the information should also be made public."
 
Evidence revealed in the Panama Papers found the BVI among the worst offenders in creating secretly-owned companies used to drain public money from countries in Africa which desperately need essential services.
 
For a powerful example of how secrecy in the BVI harms people living in poverty and may even have distorted democracy, see this investigation by Global Witness. 
  
For more information contact Rachel Baird on rbaird@christian-aid.org. The 24-hour Christian Aid press duty phone is 07850 242950.


Notes to editors:

1. Christian Aid works in some of the world's poorest communities in around 40 countries at any one time. We act where there is great need, regardless of religion, helping people to live a full life, free from poverty. We provide urgent, practical and effective assistance in tackling the root causes of poverty as well as its effects.

2. Christian Aid’s core belief is that the world can and must be changed so that poverty is ended: this is what we stand for. Everything we do is about ending poverty and injustice: swiftly, effectively, sustainably. Our strategy document Partnership for Change explains how we set about this task.

3. Christian Aid is a member of ACT Alliance, a global coalition of more than 130 churches and church-related organisations that work together in humanitarian assistance, advocacy and development. 

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5. For more information about the work of Christian Aid, visit http://www.christianaid.org.uk

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