Yesterday’s anti-corruption summit in London agreed to a plan to speed up international efforts on asset recovery.
The Global Forum for Asset Recovery will bring together governments and law enforcement agencies to discuss returning assets to Nigeria, Ukraine, Sri Lanka and Tunisia.
The meeting will be held in the United States (US) next year, co-hosted with the United Kingdom (UK), and supported by the United Nations (UN) and the World Bank, the BBC reported.
British Prime Minister David Cameron hosted the summit hailed as the first of its kind, bringing together governments, business and civil society.
The controversy over Cameron’s description of Nigeria and Afghanistan as “fantastically corrupt”, almost overshadowed the summit but did not prevent the presidents of the two countries from attending.
President Muhammadu Buhari made no reference to the comments although at a pre summit session, he said he does not need an apology from Cameron but a return of Nigeria’s stolen asset locked in British banks.
Buhari said the international community must come up with ways of getting rid of safe havens and ensuring a better return of assets.
“When it comes to tackling corruption the international community has looked the other way for far too long,” he said.
There has been concern recently that the UK, particularly London, had become a place where rich foreigners could buy properties but hide their ownership.
Mr Cameron said that should stop and foreign firms that own property in the UK must declare their assets in a public register.
Downing Street said Mr Cameron’s plans for a register of foreign companies owning UK property would include those who already owned property in the UK as well as those seeking to buy.
It said the register would mean “corrupt individuals and countries will no longer be able to move, launder and hide illicit funds through London’s property market, and will not benefit from our public funds”.
It said foreign companies owned about 100,000 properties in England and Wales and that more than 44,000 of these were in London.
Five other countries including France, the Netherlands, Nigeria and Afghanistan have also pledged to launch public registers of true company ownership. Australia, New Zealand, Jordan, Indonesia, Ireland and Georgia announced initial steps towards similar arrangements.
World leaders and politicians, including the president of Colombia attended the summit, as well as organisations such as the World Bank, OECD and the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
But critics say the UK’s overseas territories and Crown dependencies also need to be more transparent.
Tax havens with UK links, including Bermuda and the Cayman Islands were represented, but the British Virgin Islands was not at the summit. Neither was FIFA, football’s governing body, which is at the centre of a large bribery scandal.
The British Virgin Islands has not yet signed up to the automatic sharing of it register, but the Prime Minister defended Britain’s overseas territories saying they had come a long way.
Alan Bell, the chief minister of the Isle of Man, which is a Crown dependency, said progress could not be made unless the US did more and tackled its own tax havens such as the state of Delaware.
Mr Kerry said this month President Obama’s administration had announced a set of financial regulations designed to force companies to disclose more information about their owners.
There are also plans for a new anti-corruption co-ordination centre in London and a wider corporate offence for executives who fail to prevent fraud or money laundering inside their companies.
Mr Cameron said they were looking for greater transparency and were introducing a code of conduct for professionals such as accountants, solicitors and estate agents who enabled corruption, either knowingly or unknowingly.
He wanted to see how assets could be recovered, with legislation being introduced in 21 new countries.