Rosie Sharp in The Guardian: If we want to make poverty history we've got to tackle corruption first

November 28th, 2012

flickr / DG Jones

Task Force member Global Witness’s Rosie Sharp wrote the following op-ed in The Guardian on Monday. She expanded on the argument that she wrote about on this blog earlier this week, about the implications of  the Guardian, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and the BBC’s Panorama programme investigations into the nominee shareholders that make anonymous shell companies possible. Drawing the broader implications of these individuals and legal structures, Sharp writes,

Criminals can benefit from the ease with which anonymous companies can be set up. How did Saadi Gaddafi, son of the former Libyan dictator, own a £10m house in Hampstead? Through an anonymous company incorporated in the British Virgin Islands. How did Viktor Bout, the arms trader known as the “merchant of death”, disguise his activities? In part, by using 12 companies registered in Texas, Florida and Delaware. How was Afghanistan’s Kabul Bank looted, resulting in what’s possibly the largest banking failure of all time, costing 6% of the country’s GDP? Through loans made to anonymous companies linked to bank staff.

Why don’t Congolese citizens know who bought the rights to six of their country’s best copper and cobalt mines? Because they were bought by anonymous firms registered in the British Virgin Islands. And, what’s more, these companies bought them at a snip – in some cases just a 20th of their estimated value – and then sold some of them on for much, much more. Someone pocketed a fortune, but hidden company ownership means neither we, nor Congolese citizens, can know who.

The World Bank says that corruption is the biggest obstacle to alleviating poverty. Anonymous shell companies are one of the main mechanism used by the corrupt. If we want to make poverty history, we have to make corruption history.

You can read the full op-ed here.

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Written by EJ Fagan

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