Some international charity groups on Thursday transformed London’s iconic Trafalgar square into a tropical tax haven.
The move was to demand that global leaders do more than just talk to end corruption.
Their protest was also buoyed by the recent Panama Papers leak detailing the off-shore accounts of clients of the Panama-based law firm, Mossack Fonseca.
British Prime Minister, David Cameron who is hosting the event, on Tuesday described Nigeria as one of the “fantastically corrupt” countries attending the summit.
The country’s president, Muhammadu Buhari has reacted to Cameron’s comment by saying: “I am not going to demand any apology from anybody. What I am demanding is the return of assets”.
For the Country Director of Action Aid in Nigeria, Ojobo Atuluku, whereas David Cameron’s comment was “a hurtful statement … What is important is the fact that David Cameron has made that statement. It shows that he identifies that there is something wrong with the Nigerian system and what we would like to see him do is to contribute to the process of stopping the corruption.”
Oxfam on the other hand said the Panama Papers leak should be a wake up call to governments to end tax havens.
“We just think this has got to the point where ending tax havens has to be done. They serve no useful economic purpose,” said Sally Copley, the Head of UK campaigns at Oxfam UK.
She argued that the existence of tax havens essentially pits large institutions and teams of tax accounts “against the poorest countries who just don’t have the resources to fight that. So what happens is they facilitate huge volumes of money moving away from the very places where most of us want it to see it spent.”
Ojobo also said: “I would like to see him (Cameron) establish public registers, where the names, and the owners of shell companies can be made public, because where there is transparency and openness, corruption just doesn’t have a place and this is one key thing that he can do – to be able to make the efforts that are happening in Nigeria see some fruition,” she added.
But her call for a public register could become a reality soon. Cameron on Thursday pledged to set up a public register to show who owns properties in Britain, in an effort to stop stolen funds being laundered through London’s property market.
But critics have said the proposed register may not be enough to make a meaningful impact on the fight against graft.
Under the new arrangement announced on Thursday, any foreign company which wants to buy property in Britain or bid for a central government contract would have to join the new register of beneficial ownership.
David McNair, Policy Director for ONE.org however thinks “it is a really important step, but it needs to go further, because, you know, this is like a game of whack-a-mole, you kind of hit the problem somewhere and it can pop up somewhere else”.
ONE also staged a protest outside the venue of the anti-corruption summit with protesters chanting: “stop the trillion dollar scandal”.