David Cameron strikes a deal with Nigerian president just days after embarrassing ‘fantastically corrupt’ gaffe as Buhari is one of just FIVE leaders to sign up to Britain’s ‘gold standard’ on anti-corruption
- PM announced a string of new measures on foreign companies buying property in London to stop ‘corrupt individuals’ hiding illicit funds
- Afghan president Ashraf Ghani pointed to the impact of the heroin trade as he attended the summit in London
- Prime Minister was filmed earlier this week boasting about the ‘fantastically corrupt’ countries who are coming
- Nigerian president has said he wants ‘action’ by Britain to hand back stolen assets hidden in London rather than an apology
David Cameron today promised to crack down on corruption in Britain as he urged international leaders to make major reforms.
The Prime Minister welcomed Nigerian president Muhammadu Buhari to a major summit at Lancaster House in London just days after described the country as ‘fantastically corrupt’.
Nigeria was one of six nations – including Britain – to sign up to Mr Cameron’s ‘gold standard’ of public registers of company ownership despite the row over the PM’s embarrassing gaffe.
Australia is considering joining the leading group but Mr Cameron admitted he had more work to do to persuade the US – despite Secretary of State John Kerry acknowledging corruption was as dangerous as terrorism.
Mr Cameron’s hosting of the summit risked being overshadowed by the Electoral Commission asking the High Court to force the Conservative Party to disclose papers linked to an electoral fraud probe.
David Cameron greeted Nigerian president Muhammadu Buhari to the stage at his anti-corruption summit just days after he was caught on camera claiming the country was ‘fantastically corrupt’
Mr Buhari also met with Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, left, and Prince Charles, centre, at Clarence House today, pictured
The summit concluded today with 11 nations joining a now 29-strong group that will draw up registers of ownership accessible to governments but not public.
The group includes the Cayman Islands, Jersey and the Isle of Man.
The Prime Minister used his opening speech to warn foreign companies that own around 100,000 properties in England and Wales that they will be required to disclose their ownership.
And speaking at the Lancaster House venue, Mr Cameron called corruption ‘the cancer at the heart of so many of the problems we need to tackle in our world’ – noting that illicit flows alone cost the world 1.26 trillion US dollars.
Mr Cameron promised a number of measures would be pursued in the UK, with London seen as one of the prime international centers for people wishing to launder illicit assets.
The Prime Minister said: ‘We will expose corruption, so there is nowhere to hide. If you don’t know who owns what, you can’t stop people stealing from poor countries and hiding that stolen wealth in rich ones.
‘Here in the UK we want to clean up our property market and show there is no home for the corrupt in Britain, and all foreign companies with properties in the UK will have to register publicly who really owns them, who really controls them.
‘No foreign company will be able to buy UK property, or bid for central government contracts, without joining the register.
‘We have also had a very frank discussion today about changing cultures in sport. The world knows that sport can be riddled with corruption, so only when we deal with corruption in sport will people feel we are really dealing with corruption more broadly.
‘We are building a global movement against corruption. What we are talking about is stopping the corrupt hiding their loot from the authorities.’
Mr Cameron said tax-dodging destroys jobs, holds back growth, traps people in poverty and can undermine security by making citizens more susceptible to the ‘poisonous ideology of extremists’.
The PM – who was embarrassed to be overhead calling Nigeria and Afghanistan ‘fantastically corrupt’ in a conversation with the Queen days before the summit – stressed that it was ‘a challenge all countries need to address’ including the UK and US.
Mr Buhari appealed for the conference to agree measures that would see assets ‘stolen’ from the country and hidden in Western capitals and other places to be returned.
John Kerry and Mr Cameron led discussions in the first section of today’s summit, which was called against the backdrop of the leak of damning papers from Panama that revealed tax avoidance
Mr Kerry looked bored with the summit at different points of the proceedings today, which are expected to conclude this afternoon with the publication of a communique
Under the new rules, overseas firms will have to sign up to a new public register if they own or buy property or if they want to bid for central government contracts.
Mr Kerry said he had been shocked at the extent of corruption in the world since taking on his role in the Obama administration.
Mr Kerry said: ‘We are fighting a battle, all of us. Corruption, writ large, is as much of an enemy, because it destroys nation states, as some of the extremists we are fighting or the other challenges we face.
‘There are sceptics as to whether this is a passing fancy … or whether this is a beginning, a serious commitment.
‘I hope and I believe that something different is happening.’
Mr Kerry warned that some states would seek to step in and fill the demand for secrecy if others were persuaded to open up – saying it was vital to show a zero-tolerance approach.
The summit today was attended by scores of nations and bodies – but excluded key players such as the governments of Panama and the British Virgin Islands and organisations such as Fifa.
The Lancaster House summit was greeted by protesters, pictured, who demanded Mr Cameron shut down British-owned tax havens
Earlier, Mr Cameron has been told the West’s ‘drug habit’ is to blame for corruption in Afghanistan after his embarrassing on-camera gaffe.
Afghan president Ashraf Ghani pointed to the impact of the heroin trade as he prepared to attend a summit in London.
The Prime Minister risked derailing the gathering earlier this week when he was filmed boasting to the Queen and the Archbishop of Canterbury that he had some ‘fantastically corrupt’ countries attending.
He singled out Nigeria and Afghanistan during the unguarded conversation at Buckingham Palace.
In response, Nigerian president Muhammadu Buhari yesterday said that instead of an apology he would be demanding Britain return billions of pounds stolen by crooked officials and laundered in this country.
Afghan president Ashraf Ghani arrives for the London summit at Lancaster House today, where he was greeted by Foreign Office minister Hugo Swire
Mr Ghani played down Mr Cameron’s remaks in an interview with BBC Radio 4’s Today programme this morning.
He insisted the countries were ‘partners’ and pointed out that he had been elected on a platform of tackling corruption within Afghanistan.
But he added: ‘It is the drug habt of the West. The most significant driver of corruption is the narcotics cartel and that narcotic cartel is driving both terrorism, extremism and corruption.’
Banks and multinationals could be made criminally responsible for employees who embezzle funds, launder money and evade tax, under plans being announced at the summit by Mr Cameron.
A shake-up of the rules on corporate liability would see big companies hit with huge fines if they fail to stop employees committing financial crimes.
It is believed the Prime Minister will reveal Britain is devising criminal offences for businesses that fail to stop their workers engaging in fraud.
Authorities in Britain could be given similar powers to those in the US, where a bank was recently given a $500million (£350million) fine over the Libor fixing scandal.
Until now, UK prosecutors have been impeded by a legal requirement to identify the ‘controlling mind’ in a company then link that individual directly to criminality.
The planned moved emerged as Mr Cameron greeted world leaders – including U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and the presidents of Afghanistan, Nigeria and Clombia – this morning in his bid to crack down on corruption.
David Cameron used the summit today to set out new anti-corruption plans. He was fully backed by several nations while others signed up to interim measures
The summit aims to produce a global declaration against corruption and break what Mr Cameron has called the ‘taboo about tackling this issue head-on.’
Banks, civil-society organizations and the International Monetary Fund will also be present at the gathering.
But critics say the PM’s mission has been undermined by Britain’s tolerance for tax havens and his description of some attending nations as ‘fantastically corrupt.’
It emerged in leaked papers from Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca last month that Mr Cameron had a stake in an offshore firm established by his late father, although he sold his shares in 2010, before he became prime minister.
He ruffled feathers before the summit when a television microphone caught him saying ‘leaders of some fantastically corrupt countries’ were coming. Speaking at a Buckingham Palace reception with Queen Elizabeth II, he referred to Nigeria and Afghanistan as ‘possibly two of the most corrupt countries in the world.’
Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani – elected in 2015 and 2014, respectively – have promised to curb corruption in their countries.
Mr Buhari said he wasn’t seeking an apology from Cameron, but wanted something ‘tangible’ – the return of plundered Nigerian assets held in British banks.
‘Corruption is a hydra-headed monster and a canker that undermines the fabric of all societies,’ Mr Buhari said Wednesday at a pre-summit meeting. ‘It does not differentiate between developed and developing countries.’
written by Reuters//Daily mail