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Leaders' Statement

Michael Bowes QC

Practising barrister, trustee of Transparency International UK

Outer Temple Chambers

United Kingdom, Europe


Michael Bowes QC is a practising barrister in the field of business crime and corruption. He is highly experienced in conducting large scale high profile investigations and trials. He is a joint head of Outer Temple Chambers and is a trustee of Transparency International UK.


Corrupt capital: no safe harbour

My topic is tackling corrupt capital and my message is simple: turn the talk into action. The unchecked movement of corrupt capital fuels and rewards corrupt behaviour.

Corrupt leaders can steal from their own countries, confident that the money can be laundered into houses, art, yachts cars and a seemingly respectable lifestyle. They rely on enablers and sellers who are willing to turn a blind eye for profit. The Panama Papers scandal is a siren call to arms and already there is a response: on 15 April five EU law enforcement agencies in the UK, Germany, France, Italy and Spain have agreed to share data. Now is the time to adopt and enact the key FATF (Financial Action Task Force) recommendations. The big three are:

  • Establish powers and responsibilities for the competent authorities (e.g. investigative, law enforcement and supervisory authorities);
  • Require the transparency of beneficial ownership; and
  • Facilitate international cooperation.

In order to bite, the powers must have extra-territorial reach so that the state in which the corrupt capital is harboured can prosecute an individual for a money laundering offence on the basis that although the money is the proceeds of crime from corrupt conduct in another state, it will be treated as if it were the proceeds of a crime committed in the receiving state.

All this is achievable: such powers already exist in large measure in the UK under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002. Civil powers allowing for the seizure of corrupt capital should run alongside these criminal powers, facilitating where possible the return of the capital to the victims of corruption.

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We are grateful to all the authors and contributing organisations within this Manifesto and to the partner organisations that helped to convene this landmark collection of anti-corruption statements from across a wide range of business and civil society leaders. The partners for the Leaders' Anti-Corruption Manifesto are The B Team, Thomson Reuters, the Global Organisation of Parliamentarians Against Corruption, the ONE campaign and the Commonwealth Enterprise and Investment Council

This project is supported by a grant from the Omidyar Network.

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