Call for UK 'get its own house in order' as MPs debate corruption

By agency reporter
October 26, 2016

The Government has taken some welcome small steps against corruption but it has much more to do to get the UK’s own house in order, Christian Aid said yesterday (25 October 2106) as MPs debated the Criminal Finances Bill for the first time.

“The UK’s tax havens have been implicated in many of the worst corruption and tax dodging scandals. Yet this Bill designed to stop corruption says nothing about them,” warned Simon Kirkland, Christian Aid’s UK Parliamentary and Political Adviser.

“If the Government is serious about tackling corruption then it must get the UK’s own house in order by bringing the Overseas Territories into line with the transparency the rest of the UK enjoys. Theresa May talks tough but she needs to act tough with this Criminal Finances Bill.

“Until there is transparency in the UK’s tax havens – the Overseas Territories in particular – Ms May is missing a major opportunity to stamp out corruption and tax crime.”

Christian Aid expects that MPs from different parties will today demand that the Criminal Finances Bill be strengthened against those who steal public money through corruption and tax evasion. As it stands, the Bill goes some way towards clamping down on corrupt assets and tax evaders but falls short where it matters most – in relation to the UK’s secretive tax havens, which offer  cover to criminals with dirty money to hide.

Christian Aid has welcomed the useful measures in the Criminal Finances Bill, which must not be watered down under pressure from companies that make their money assisting the tax-shy and the corrupt.

For instance, the Bill proposes that law enforcement officials should have more powers to seize the proceeds of grand corruption. In addition, it says that organisations that facilitate tax evasion through middlemen will be punished, under new offences of failure to prevent tax evasion.

Mr Kirkland added: “The UK sits at the centre of an international network of tax havens that facilitate corruption and tax evasion. These crimes harm everyone - especially people living in poverty. Developing countries lose around three times as much to tax havens as they receive in aid, and many of the world’s biggest tax havens are run by the UK.

“If the Government is determined to tackle global corruption, it should finally set a timeline for its Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies to adopt the same levels of transparency as the rest of the UK. Only then can we call ourselves a leader against corruption.

“In addition, the ‘unexplained wealth orders’ and ‘disclosure orders’ provided for in the Bill must be extended to cover wealth held in UK tax havens, as well as elsewhere in this country. UK law enforcement officers must be able to investigate potentially criminal money, wherever in the UK it is hidden.”

Christian Aid believes there is strong public support for the government to get tough against secrecy in the Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies. In a poll this month for Oxfam, two-thirds (67 per cent) of British adults said the government had a responsibility to make UK tax havens more transparent.

* Christian Aid http://www.christianaid.org.uk/

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