money laundering

Corruption and Money-Laundering

Ill-gotten gains don’t disappear by themselves. Dictators, warlords and other criminals need ways to hide their identity and move dirty cash around the world. Then they need a nice safe place to spend their loot. Read more

Global Witness’ investigators follow the money, and consistently come up against the same problems. Whether its timber, diamonds, oil or mineral deals, those with suspect money to hide need a bank that won’t ask awkward questions; a lawyer to help them find loopholes and skirt laws; and a legal smokescreen so they can get it out of the country it came from. Our founder Charmian Gooch spelt it out in this TED talk:

As she says, these services are all readily available in the world’s biggest international financial centres, like Singapore, London or New York, as well as smaller tax havens and secrecy jurisdictions. It’s very easy to set up layers of paper companies and trusts to cover your tracks. Banks too often fail to do the proper checks on suspect clients or funds, and regulators don’t punish them for these failures. Without this kind of complicity from the international system, crime and corruption of this kind would be much harder to get away with.

When citizens get so fed up with the state-looting they pour out onto the streets in protest, as seen recently in Libya or Ukraine, and governments are quick to freeze assets. But the headlines about expensive private homes, huge bank accounts and glamorous double lives of newly fallen dictators in Western hotspots point to a more fundamental problem. If the corruption is so obvious, what is the money doing there in the first place? 

Global Witness wants to change this. We want a world in which business is done in the open and for the greater good. That’s why our investigations and advocacy focus on changing the international systems which make corruption and money laundering possible. We’re calling for international public registries of the real owners of companies, visa bans for corrupt politicians, better regulation of banks and lawyers and strict enforcement of anti-money laundering laws.