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Banks

Many of the resource-rich countries that Global Witness works in have been looted by the very politicians who have been entrusted with developing those economies.  

According to conservative estimates more than $450 billion illicitly left African countries during the last decade.  Money flows of this kind of scale could not happen without the willingness of banks and other professionals (like estate agents and lawyers) to facilitate the movement of the money, often with the help of anonymous companies to disguise the purpose of transactions.

Banks stand to make big profits from accepting the business of rich, dodgy customers, whether that be tax evaders, corrupt politicians looting money from the budgets of poor countries or other criminals. And yet despite the existence of fairly stringent-sounding anti-money laundering laws, the risks they face for taking tainted assets are small. Banks are rarely caught and when they are, the punishment is small: the fines may seem large to members of the public, but are often only a fraction of the bank’s profits; and there is very limited personal responsibility from individual bankers.

We’re campaigning for a more effective system of deterrents. Senior people within banks need to be held individually responsible for the actions of their institutions; sanctions need to be sufficiently dissuasive; and regulators must improve the way they enforce the existing rules which make it illegal to accept dirty money.

Progress in the UK:

  • In December 2013, the UK committed to new measures which could herald a sea change in the way banks uphold the anti-money laundering laws.  As part of the Banking Reform Bill passed by parliament, a named senior executive at each bank will be held personally responsible for their bank’s performance in this area, something that Global Witness has been campaigning for.

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Coalitions that we’re part of that work on the issue of money laundering

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