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Europe must ‘walk the walk’ on corruption – Mo Ibrahim

Source: Tue, 4 Feb 2014 21:08 GMT
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In this 2009 file photo, Sudanese-born telecommunications entrepreneur Mo Ibrahim listens during a conference promoting good governance in Africa, in Tanzania's capital Dar es Salaam REUTERS/Katrina Manson
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LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Europeans talk about prosecuting corruption but unlike the United States’ officials, they do not follow through,  Anglo-Sudanese billionaire and philanthropist Mo Ibrahim said in a speech on Monday.

“Why are European companies prosecuted in the U.S. but not in their home countries?” Ibrahim said.  “Those guys in the U.S., they walk the walk when it comes to anti-corruption.

“In Europe, we talk but we never walk the walk,” he added.

Ibrahim, a former mobile communications entrepreneur, has used his wealth to set up the Mo Ibrahim Foundation to encourage better governance in Africa.  His foundation is best known for awarding an annual $5 million prize to a former African head of state who has shown exceptional leadership while in power. However, the prize has been awarded just three times since 2007.

“In Africa we have our problems but we haven’t cornered the market on corruption,” Ibrahim said at the London-based international affairs think-tank Chatham House.

Ibrahim’s speech was delivered on Monday, the same day that the European Union published a survey which found that almost half of all companies doing business in Europe think that corruption is a problem.  The cost to the European economy is estimated by the European Commission at 120 billion euros ($162 billion) annually, almost the size of the Romanian economy.  The European Commission recommended better controls and a redoubling of enforcement.

BRIBERY IS ‘LOW HANGING FRUIT’

Ibrahim also called for governments to crack down on tax evasion and trade mispricing, saying that bribery prosecutions were “low hanging fruit” compared to the issue of multinational companies artificially reducing their tax bill by transferring profits out of one country and into another low-tax jurisdiction.

“Multinationals don’t pay taxes in Africa, we all know that,” Ibrahim said.

Washington DC-based transparency watchdog Global Financial Integrity estimates that African economies have lost between $597 billion and $1.4 trillion in net resource transfers in the past three decades, much of it through trade mispricing, tax evasion and corruption.

“Business is global, countries need to react to that, taxes need to be paid where profit arises,” Ibrahim said.

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