Phantom firms play a central role in laundering and channelling money, concealing behind a veil of secrecy the identity of corrupt individuals and irresponsible businesses involved in tax evasion, terrorist financing, and the trafficking of drugs and people. This enables smooth criminals to hide their dodgy dealings and to stash their cash, robbing governments in rich and poor countries of resources that could and should be spent on improving hospitals, paying for additional teachers, and tackling poverty.
At the G8 Summit in June this year UK Prime Minister David Cameron declared that he would like to see the whole world crack down on phantom firms, by requiring information about who owns and controls companies and trusts (so called beneficial ownership information) to be made public.
The Prime Minister has talked the talk. ONE, along with a wide variety of organisations, from Oxfam to the Institute of Directors, is asking that the UK government as a whole walks the walk.
Here’s why the UK should commit to making public information about who owns and controls companies and trusts:
Phantom firms rob poor countries of billions of pounds that should be spent on fighting poverty. For instance, from 2010-2012 the Democratic Republic of the Congo lost $1.3bn as a result of dodgy deals involving phantom firms – that’s nearly twice the combined health and education budget. This looting has to stop.
Phantom firms play a key role in financing terrorism and laundering the proceeds from the trafficking of guns, drugs and people. Who in their right mind wants to be complicit in that? Not the British people we reckon!
The Prime Minister has said he wants to see information about who owns and controls companies made public. The UK Government should make it so. Who’s the boss?
The UK has already committed to collecting information about who owns and controls companies in a central register. Making that information public costs almost nothing and will have huge benefits, especially for developing countries. Honestly, it’s a no-brainer.
The UK needs to be working now, to persuade the European Union to crack down on phantom firms. To do that, the UK needs to get its own house in order.
There’s a meeting in London at the end of October – the Open Government Partnership Summit – a great opportunity for the UK to show its leadership in cracking down on phantom firms.
And, last not but not least,
Because ONE and its 3.5 million members are watching and waiting, ready to make a noise. We stand ready to applaud UK leadership and to highlight any back-tracking in terms of ambition.