Corruption and money laundering

Corruption keeps poor countries poor, encourages conflict and instability and leads to environmental destruction. Our campaigns expose and tackle the ways dictators, warlords, the criminal and corrupt use global financial centres to hide their identity and move their dirty cash around the world.

For years Global Witness investigators followed the money, and consistently came up against the same problems. Whether from timber, diamonds, oil or mineral deals, those with suspect money to hide need a bank that won’t ask awkward questions; a team of lawyers and financial advisors to help them find loopholes and skirt laws; and all too often, an anonymous company so they can get it out of the country it came from.  

These services are all readily available in the world’s biggest international financial centres, like Singapore, London or New York, as well as the more notorious 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. 

Our investigations and advocacy focus on changing the international systems which make corruption and money laundering possible.  We have analysed the Wall Street banks, lawyers and auditors at the heart of Malaysia’s 1MDB corruption scandal and gone undercover in New York to reveal how suspect money can enter the U.S.

Through our work on anonymous companies, we have successfully campaigned with allies for registers of the real owners of companies in a vast number of countries and a register of the real owners of UK properties - a favoured haven for shady money from around the world. With this information now in the public domain, we’ve carried out ground-breaking data analysis of millions of companies to demonstrate the power of public scrutiny.

We’ve exposed and advocated against the methods used by the criminal and corrupt to find a safe bolthole for themselves and their dirty money, such as the golden visas offering fast-track citizenship or residency in some EU countries in exchange for lots of cash.

Alongside this work, our campaign for greater transparency in the oil, gas and mining sector has highlighted how companies that pay bribes and make secret deals are complicit in keeping poor countries poor and propping up kleptocratic regimes. This work continues through our campaign to hold predatory companies who destabilise, distort and corrupt to be held to account.

On The House

Alarmingly, in the U.S., there are few regulations and checks of who is purchasing homes. As a result, housing remains a key vehicle for criminals looking to stash cash, launder money, and buy up homes in a tight market.
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