Canada joins alliance to crack down on corruption

TheGlobeandMail.com – ROB/International Business
May 12, 2016.   Paul Waldie – European Correspondent, London

Canada is joining the United States, Britain and three other countries in setting up the International Anti-Corruption Coordination Centre to crack down on global corruption and recover looted assets.

The centre, to be based in London, will work with Interpol and law enforcement agencies from around the world. Australia, New Zealand and Switzerland are also helping co-found the organization. It will “provide international co-ordination and support to help law enforcement agencies and prosecutors work together across borders to investigate and punish corrupt elites and recover stolen assets,” according to an announcement Thursday by British Prime Minister David Cameron.

The announcement came at the start of an anti-corruption summit in London. The conference is being attended by about a dozen Prime Ministers and Presidents from around the world including Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, two countries Mr. Cameron recently described as “fantastically corrupt”. The heads of the World Bank, International Monetary Fund and senior members of the International Olympic Committee are also taking part. Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale is representing Canada.

The conference will cover a multitude of topics including corruption in sports, tax evasion and money laundering. Britain is also hoping more countries will join its call for the registration of the beneficial owners of foreign companies that own property. There are growing concerns that real estate has become a vehicle for money laundering and a way to hide stolen money. Under new rules being adopted in the UK, any foreign company that wants to buy property will have to provide the names of the ultimate owners of the firm. Companies that already own property will have to register as well. The government estimated that foreign companies own about 100,000 properties in the country, roughly half of which are in London.

The IMF released a paper Wednesday that said bribes and other forms of corruption in the public sector costs the global economy up to $2-trillion (US) annually. The fund is calling for more transparency, better laws and greater enforcement.

“While the direct economic costs of corruption are well known, the indirect costs may be even more substantial and debilitating,” IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde wrote in an essay accompanying the paper. “Corruption also has a broader corrosive impact on society. It undermines trust in government and erodes the ethical standards of private citizens,” added Ms. Lagarde who will be at the summit.

One country not invited to the meeting was Panama, despite recent revelations from a Panamanian law firm about offshore accounts linked to possible tax avoidance schemes. Summit officials said the conference was focusing on countries that are making progress, or at least trying to make progress, on cracking down on corruption.

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