The UK’s Prime Minster David Cameron has just hosted the  “Anti-Corruption Summit”, a first of its kind, bringing together world leaders, business, and civil society with the goal of seeking to agree on a package of steps to:

  1. Expose corruption so there is nowhere to hide
  2. Punish the perpetrator and support those affected by corruption
  3. Drive out the culture of corruption wherever it exists

To coincide with, and resulting from the Summit, there were a number of announcements.

Significantly, the UK Government has revealed plans to consult on extending corporate criminal liability to hold companies criminally liable for failing to prevent economic crimes, such as fraud and money laundering.  This would add to the current corporate offence of failing to prevent bribery (contained in the UK’s Bribery Act), and the corporate offence of failing to prevent tax evasion, which is presently being consulted on and is likely to be brought into effect.  This revives plans that had been shelved by the Government last year.  Undoubtedly the glaring focus that the Panama Papers has brought onto the UK and Crown dependencies has got much to do with the shift in political will.

The creation of a Global Forum for Asset Recovery was announced, which will bring together governments and enforcement agencies to facilitate international efforts to recover assets.  The first Forum, to be held next year in the US, and co-hosted by the UK, will focus on discussions around returning assets to Nigeria, Ukraine, Sri Lanka, and Tunisia.

Six countries (including the UK) have committed to establishing public registers of company ownership while six more will explore doing so, and a total of thirty-one countries (including the UK) have committed to sharing information on company ownership with one another.

Eight countries (including the UK) will partner on a world-first International Anti-Corruption Coordination Centre, which will be hosted in London and run alongside the UK’s National Crime Agency and Interpol, and seek to help law enforcement agencies and prosecutors work together across borders

The UK Government published an open Government National Action Plan 2016-18 that focuses on accomplishing the UK’s ambitious aim of becoming the “most transparent government in history”.  Some of the highlights being plans to:

  • Establish a public registrar of company beneficial ownership information for foreign companies who already own or buy property in the UK, or who bid on UK central government contracts. From 30 June 2016, UK companies will have to start providing “People with Significant Control” information to the UK’s Companies House public register.
  • Enhance company disclosure regarding payments to governments for the sale of oil, gas, and minerals.
  • Develop, and publish a new Anti-Corruption Strategy that will be consulted on from May to November of this year. The last such plan was published in the UK in December 2014.