LABOUR will work to create a legally binding treaty that would end the “global scandal” of corporations avoiding tax, Jeremy Corbyn said on the eve of International Anti-Corruption Day today.
In a wide-ranging speech at the United Nations headquarters in Geneva yesterday, the Labour leader accused the British government yesterday of playing a “central role” in enabling tax avoidance.
A Labour government will regulate transnational firms, their subsidiaries and suppliers under international human rights law, he said.
This would be done by introducing strict standards of transparency for crown dependencies and overseas territories, including a public register of owners, directors, major shareholders and beneficial owners for companies and trusts.
“As the Paradise and Panama papers have shown, the super-rich and powerful can’t be trusted to regulate themselves,” Mr Corbyn said.
“Corruption isn’t something that happens ‘over there’ — our government has played a central role in enabling the corruption that undermines democracy and violates human rights.”
He also attacked “the growing concentration of unaccountable wealth and power in the hands of a tiny corporate elite,” arguing that “the dominant global economic system is broken.”
Corruption and tax avoidance enable a wealthy few to control 90 per cent of global resources, Mr Corbyn continued.
It is also worsening inequality within and between nations; depriving developing countries of more than $100 billion (£75bn) a year in revenue through corporations not paying their share, and sucking $1 trillion (£750bn) a year out of the Global South through “illicit financial flows.
“The most powerful international corporations must not be allowed to continue to dictate how and for who our world is run,” the Labour leader insisted.
Charmian Gooch, founding director of anti-corruption campaign group Global Witness, commented: “As Jeremy Corbyn rightly says, corruption isn’t just something that happens in countries far away. It is present on our streets, in our banking system and in our tax havens.
“For too long, London has acted as a playground for the corrupt and UK tax havens have been a favoured place to hide dirty money.
“The government must use International Anti-Corruption Day as an opportunity to bring greater transparency to UK tax havens and overseas territories [and] also to stop dirty money entering our property market and bring in proper punishment for those corporations that commit economic crimes.”
At least £122bn worth of property in England and Wales is owned by companies registered offshore, according to Global Witness, and 75 per cent of properties whose owners are under investigation for corruption have made use of these secret schemes.
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