Corruption knows no borders – it is a truly global challenge that calls for a coordinated, cross-border and cross-sectoral response. This recognition brought renewed energy and urgency to discussions at the International Anti-Corruption Conference (IACC) in Washington DC last week, which gathered together heads of state, government officials, civil society activists, journalists and business leaders from over 140 countries for the first time since the disruption of Covid-19.
In his opening speech on behalf of the host country, US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan identified corruption as a top priority and core national security interest for the Biden administration. Given the sheer scale and speed of the transnational challenges posed by corruption, he urged the need for an integrated response that moves beyond traditional silos in government. In her opening remarks, USAID Secretary Samantha Power similarly explored how “corruption is not just something that happens within a country, but is something exacerbated by global trends and perpetuated by global networks”.
UK in the spotlight
The UK’s role in global corruption came under the spotlight as participants addressed some of the most pressing challenges of our time. In the wake of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, attention turned to the regulatory weaknesses and loopholes which have made the UK a magnet for dirty money. There was strong consensus that we need tougher measures to tackle the professional enablers in the west who have serviced – and profited from – oligarchs and kleptocrats looking to move their ill-gotten gains beyond their own borders. The Biden administration’s announcement at the IACC of its “full support” for the bipartisan Enablers Act signals that anti-money laundering reform is high on the agenda in the US, even though this week’s setback in the Senate may mean it takes longer to get through Congress. This reaffirms that the UK government’s proposed measures in the Economic Crime and Corporate Transparency Bill to strengthen supervision of the legal sector are an important first step in the right direction.
“Double crazy” lack of compensation
The staggering reach and impact of Glencore’s global bribery scheme drew comment in a number of sessions. In one plenary, Cameroonian lawyer Akere Muna noted that while significant fines had been paid by Glencore, no compensation has been paid to victims. As Basel Institute on Governance Director Gretta Fenner pointed out, it is “double crazy” that the UK benefits, through fines paid, from the corporate offending of a UK company operating abroad. In another panel, the Director of the Global Anti-Corruption Consortium, Alex Gillies, highlighted that fines are not enough to deter giant commodities traders like Glencore, and called for senior executives to be held to account and for countries like the UK to take further action, through sanctions and visa bans, against public officials who enjoy impunity in their own countries.
Speaking on a panel about grand corruption enforcement, Spotlight’s Dr Helen Taylor explored sticking points in the debate about victim compensation, pointing to reforms that are needed to ensure victims are heard and compensated in UK courts, as well as the measures that law enforcement can take to address the lack of accountability of public officials who accepted bribes from Glencore.
More resources for law enforcement
Across the full range of topics covered at this year’s IACC, a recurring theme was the need to scale up enforcement efforts, giving law enforcement agencies better tools and more resourcing to match the increasing scale and complexity of corruption. By bringing together the diverse perspectives and expertise of the global anti-corruption community, the IACC has spurred new thinking and collaboration to strengthen our collective efforts to tackle corruption.