Anonymous shell companies allow corrupt officials to siphon off government revenue and corrupt businesses to hide from the justice system, says the billionaire businessman Mo Ibrahim.
In an open letter to the G20 nations, Ibrahim highlighted the fact that $1 trillion is spirited out of developing nations every year and funnelled through elaborate banking arrangements, frequently located in the US, while global detection rates of illicit funds are as low as 1%. The same schemes are increasingly used by drug cartels to launder money, as well as by those funding terrorism.
Ibrahim, a Sudanese-British mobile communications magnate, has joined forces with six fellow entrepreneurs from the “B Team” foundation: Arianna Huffington, Richard Branson, Guilherme Leal, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Francois-Henri Pinault and Paul Polman. Together, they are pushing for the G20 to act on “beneficial ownership” – forcing shell companies to be transparent about the “real people” who own and profit from them. All seven business figures have signed the letter.
“As entrepreneurs – owners and leaders of successful corporations – we do not want the corporate form to be abused and called into disrepute. As global leaders, we see that corruption and money laundering are a constraint on economic growth that undermines investments in human capital and infrastructure,” wrote Ibrahim.
He added: “Action on beneficial ownership transparency benefits us all: it increases the stability of the financial system, ensures countries can benefit from their own resources and enables law enforcement to track down the perpetrators of crime and corruption.”
In 2013, the G8 drew up new principles to combat the misuse of companies, with UK and EU officials contemplating similar measures. Last month, the OECD/G20 proposals to combat tax evasion via a new standard on the automatic exchange of information suggested that they may be open to similar routes.