Catherine McKinnell MP and Nigel Mills MP
All-Party Parliamentary Group on Anti-Corruption, UK
Houses of Parliament, UK,
Catherine McKinnell MP is the co-Chair and co-founder of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Anti-Corruption. She was first elected as the Labour Member of Parliament for Newcastle upon Tyne North in May 2010 and has served in a number of frontbench roles, including as a Shadow Treasury Minister and, most recently, as Shadow Attorney General. Before becoming an MP, Catherine practiced law.
Nigel Mills MP is the co-Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Anti-Corruption. Nigel is the Conservative Member of Parliament for Amber Valley and was first elected to the House of Commons in 2010, before which he worked as an international tax adviser.
Anti-corruption starts at home: to tackle global economic crime, the UK needs to get its backyard in order
When Prime Minister David Cameron identified that “corruption is one of the greatest enemies of progress in our time” last year, we agreed. Corruption destabilises key government institutions, increases inequality, adds significantly to the cost of doing business, and even funds terror.
But ending global economic crime demands that the UK gets its own backyard in order: this means extending transparency to our Overseas Territories and equipping our law enforcement agencies with the tools they need to prosecute and deter the money laundering and corruption that is taking place in British jurisdictions.
Recently, the UK’s National Crime Agency estimated that tens to hundreds of billions of pounds in corrupt or illicit finance could be flowing through the City of London every year, with funds laundered by myriad professional enablers. In 2011, a World Bank study found that the UK’s Overseas Territories are the second most popular locations for the corrupt to establish secret companies. Closer to home, research from Transparency International UK revealed that over 36,000 London properties are owned by offshore companies, and that from 2004 to 2014 £180m worth of London property was brought under investigation as the proceeds of international corruption by UK law enforcement agencies.
The statistics paint a troubling picture in which London is a safe haven for the proceeds of crime, the British Overseas Territories routinely offer secrecy to criminal enterprises, and the UK’s financial sector is beset by a vast quantity of suspicious transactions. This is why as a cross-party group of Parliamentarians, we welcome the UK government’s leadership in introducing a public register of beneficial ownership. But more has to be done. We support – in the strongest possible terms – the Prime Minister’s call for the British Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies to follow suit and create public registers of company ownership as soon as possible.
It is also why we urge the government to strengthen UK law enforcement’s ability to hold companies to account for wrongdoing, by making it a criminal offence if they fail to prevent all forms of economic crime, not just tax evasion as is currently proposed. In 2015 Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index ranked the UK inside the top ten countries with the lowest perception of public sector corruption. For this accolade to remain meaningful, the Summit must deliver credible policy commitments which tackle how the UK facilitates global economic crime.