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Nov 15, 2014 12:11 AM

Groups call for G-20 to unmask shell companies

The Associated Press

BRISBANE, Australia (AP) Anti-corruption advocates want G-20 countries to stem the flow of illicit money across borders by introducing public registers that reveal the people who ultimately own, control, or benefit from a business but use shell companies to hide their identities and avoid tax.

One group, Transparency International, fears that China is the biggest obstacle to achieving meaningful agreement on the subject of unmasking "beneficial owners," those who hide behind shell companies.

Establishing principles of transparency and clarity has long been on the G-20 agenda and has been a focus of its Anti-Corruption Working Group. Mandating national registers is a step too far for some countries, but endorsing a set of principles that promote transparency may be in reach at the G-20's summit this weekend in Brisbane.

Transparency International, two Nobel Laureates, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Tawakkol Karman, plus 22 leaders of civil society representing every continent published an open letter to G-20 leaders this week calling on them to take concrete actions to stop corruption and make the global system more transparent.

"When a global financial system allows billions of dollars of corrupt or stolen money to flow unchecked around the globe, something is wrong," the letter said. "When financial secrecy helps strip Africa of $50 billion each year, something is wrong. When the poor of this world see the wealth of their countries slip beyond their borders, something must be done."

The initiative coincides with a social media campaign, organized by Transparency International, to send more than two million tweets to the G-20 leaders for its Unmask the Corrupt Campaign. The campaign's three goals are to introduce global beneficial ownership regulations with public registries, use visa denials to punish the corrupt, and make those who sell luxury goods ensure the corrupt don't profit from the proceeds of corruption.

Find the full text of the letter at www.transparency.org


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