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TWO-MINUTE TALKING POINT - Why it’s easy to plunder billions by Alex Plough

Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation - Tue, 11 Jun 2013 13:58 PM
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"This failure to reverse the illegal flow of public money into developed countries and offshore financial centers has real consequences for the world's poorest."

- Alex Plough, Thomson Reuters Foundation Correspondent

Every week, Thomson Reuters Foundation correspondents offer distilled insight on pressing issues. Two-Minute Talking Points bring you concise commentary from the front lines of humanitarian crises, climate change, corruption and human rights.

Activists are nervously hopeful that at next week’s G8 meeting, British Prime Minister David Cameron will unveil new corporate transparency rules to take on the multi billion pound tax evasion industry.

If properly implemented, strict new laws ending the use of anonymous ‘shell’ companies would make it more difficult for criminals to clean their dirty money.

But the same jurisdictions used to dodge tax also attract corrupt officials looking for a place to launder their looted wealth.

I recently spoke to serving and former police officers with decades of experience investigating financial crime.

They claim that civil servants in rich economies are hindering the global anti-money laundering effort and there is a lack of political will to pursue and return stolen funds.

The cost to developing countries is immense. The World Bank estimates that they lose $20 to $40 billion each year through corruption.

But by 2009 only $5 billion had been returned in the previous 15 years.

This failure to reverse the illegal flow of public money into developed countries and offshore financial centers has real consequences for the world’s poorest.

Unfortunately for the victims, Britain is seen as one of the worst countries to deal with when trying to recover stolen assets stashed in its financial system.

Civil society groups warn that unless asset recovery becomes a political priority, there is little deterrent for corrupt officials and Britain will continue to be a safe haven for hiding illicit wealth.

Filming/editing: Shanshan Chen
Creative direction: Claudine Boeglin

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