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March 14, 2014 at 10:25

The world came together to ban apartheid. It must do the same to tackle corruption

The world came together to ban apartheid. It must do the same to tackle corruption

The entry pass to this separate world of international oligarchy are the billions stolen from the taxpayer by corrupt bureaucrats and fraudsters

In 2013 the world said goodbye to Nelson Mandela, the man whose name became the symbol of the struggle against the inhuman regime of apartheid.

This fight lasted for more than 50 years. It was the international community which made a crucial contribution to the process of uprooting the shameful system. Because of the firm attitude of the civilised world, and the sanctions imposed (despite some strong covert resistance within the UK and the US) on South Africa, the reforms, leading to the destruction of apartheid and the triumph of civilised values, were achieved.

Now, at the beginning of the 21st century, the civilised world is again confronted with a serious challenge: global corruption and fraud. Although not new, their growth is truly frightening. Today they pose a threat, not just to individual countries, but to mankind as a whole.

According to the calculations of the international organisation, Tax Justice Network, the overall amount of money stolen and taken out of legal circulation by various crooks, is US$30trn (£17.9bn), or half the world’s annual output.

Another anti-corruption group, Global Financial Integrity, reckons that the average outflow of money increases on average at 10 per cent per annum, which is substantially higher than overall global growth. The top 10 countries generating most of the dirty money are: Russia, China, Mexico, Malaysia, India, Saudi-Arabia, Brazil, Indonesia, Iraq and Nigeria.

However the countries of Western Europe are not immune to this evil. The news stories surrounding current corruption scandals and multi-billion dollar fraud in the major banks, investment funds and multinational corporations stand as clear evidence to that.

The price of entry

Bleeding dry the economies of countries and continents, the shady dealers steal the future of nations. They’ve created their own parallel universe, which is guided by its own rules and where no outside laws are applicable.

The entry pass to this separate world of international oligarchy are the billions stolen from the taxpayer by corrupt bureaucrats and fraudsters. At their disposal are the best lawyers, offshore tax havens and nominee directorship services to launder the stolen goods. Unfortunately, many countries which pay lip service to the fight with corruption and fraud at home, themselves act as the promised land for the bearers of dirty capital; more often than not, they are granted political asylum, immunity from prosecution from the governments and private individuals who fell victim to their crimes.

“The graft and inefficiency cost Gazprom $40 billion in 2011,” wrote The Economist in a recent editorial. “An even larger sum has been siphoned off by well-connected oligarchs, squirrelled away to countries like Switzerland and Britain that are prepared to tolerate the crooks.”

All over the Western world this type of criminal buys the forgiveness for his sins by investing into top of the range real estate, purchasing securities and government bonds.

Their generous hosts seem not to understand or perhaps, simply close their eyes to the facts, that dirty money is the ultimate ticking time bomb. It’s dirty money which is the prime cause of the phenomena, known as the financial market bubble - one of which, one day, sooner or later, will destroy the world financial system and cause the next global economic crisis and depression. This is what occurred in 2008 when the “sub-prime mortgage” bubble burst and total meltdown of the world’s finances was only just avoided.

Joint efforts

As with apartheid in South Africa, corruption can only be defeated by the joint efforts of the whole of the international community.

The first thing, that urgently needs to be done, is that the practice of the off-shore tax havens, which give asylum to the stolen capital, has to be urgently stopped. Second, the practice of nominee ownership is made illegal. The latter would strike an unexpected and truly almighty blow to the corrupt, who rely on the income from their offshore accounts, and may immediately substantially increase the chances of people to retrieve a large portion of the money stolen from them.

At a summit in Seoul, the G20 created a Commission on Global Corruption which, as yet, has done nothing; the UN Convention on Fighting Corruption had no impact whatsoever, either. To internationalise the fight with corruption and the international oligarchy, and to make the battle less one-sided, a new multi-national organisation should be created. It should be fully legally empowered and enabled to investigate corruption, fraud and money laundering across international borders, as well as trace and track the crooks and their capital globally.

I appeal to everyone to support the idea of a transparent world, free from corruption and dirty money. Only the collective effort of ordinary people and public figures – opinion-makers, journalists, experts - can compel politicians to support this urgent call. We have to act today – tomorrow might be too late.

Alexander Lebedev is publisher of the Independent titles and London Evening Standard

Tags: Corruption

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