12 May 2016 - David Cameron missed his best chance to stop secrecy in UK-controlled tax havens while other world leaders announced plans to introduce public registers of company owners in their own countries, Christian Aid warned today as the Prime Minister’s Anti-Corruption Summit ended.
“Today was David Cameron’s best chance to stop the UK’s network of tax havens profiting from secrecy, but he has failed to take the action he urged on others,” said Toby Quantrill, Principal Economic Justice Adviser at Christian Aid.
“Soon countries like Nigeria, Kenya and Afghanistan will be more transparent than UK-controlled tax havens. Mr Cameron’s failure to clean up the UK’s own back yard is a missed opportunity that he must address with the utmost urgency.”
Alvin Mosioma, Executive Director of Tax Justice Network Africa, said rich countries including the UK must stop their tax havens helping the corrupt. “Some African governments have shown commitment to tackle corruption within their borders and the Nigerian government’s recent announcement of a public register of beneficial owners is a good example,” he said.
“However, these efforts will not yield the intended results if governments including that of the UK, which should be considered as the hotbed for global corruption, are only paying lip service while providing the getaway cars that allows funds to be siphoned out of Africa.
“Flowery political statements by rich countries’ leaders’ must translate to concrete action, with them cleaning the corruption swamps in their own back yards.”
Countries including the Netherlands, South Africa, Australia, Nigeria, Kenya and Afghanistan have all announced plans for publicly-accessible registers of companies’ true owners – inspired by the UK’s public register which begins next month. Others, including Ireland, have agreed to explore such public registers.
Toby Quantrill said: “The Prime Minister has said he thinks all company registers should be public, yet he has chosen to shield the UK’s overseas jurisdictions from the same ‘gold standard’ of public transparency that the UK is pursuing.
“UK territories have been peddling secrecy services which grease the wheels of corruption for decades, causing untold suffering and deprivation as developing countries are drained of resources,
“However the Prime Minister deserves credit for putting transparency on the global agenda in 2013. Today’s Anti-Corruption Summit shows others are following his lead and the Summit could prove worthwhile, given the many announcements that will help continue the fight against corruption in the years to come.
“The UK has moved a long way in three years and even today has decided to shine a light on the ownership of businesses that knowingly facilitate financial crime, as well as ending their impunity,
“These are small pieces in a much bigger puzzle and Mr Cameron’s failure to stand up to UK tax havens, whose total population is the same of a small UK city, leaves us questioning why he is unwilling to do so.”
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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.
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