By Shaheen Sehbai
JUST ABOUT a week back, a world conference with important leaders of the political and business world took amazing decisions that would rock and shock corrupt leaders in many countries, including Pakistan. Amazingly this meeting of global decision makers went un-noticed, unreported and was deliberately kept under the wraps but its decisions will having grave and long-lasting impact and consequences. Remember what General Raheel Sharif said a few weeks back that corruption and terrorism go together and without eliminating corruption, political and otherwise, it would be impossible to check terrorism.
Now the prestigious World Economic Forum (WEF) and its important offshoot, the Partnership against Corruption Initiative (PACI) have adopted this agenda and also agreed to implement measures that would shock many giving them continuous sleepless nights.
Just a week after the London summit on Anti Corruption organized by British PM David Cameron, PACI met in Washington DC on May 19 and 20 at a session chaired by David Cruickshank, Global Chairman of Deloitte (known as the largest management consultancy in the world) and Leonard McCarthy, Director Integrity of the World Bank. The participants of this discussion and decisionmaking included the charming Vice President and Foreign Minister of Panama Isabel Saint Malo de Alvarado, Managing Director of Transparency International (TI) Cobus de Swardt, Nicola Bonucci of Basel Institute on Governance (BIOG), Serge Pun from Myanmar, Yetunde Allen of Clean Business Practice Initiative Nigeria, Blair Glencorse of USA’s Accountability Lab, Sabine Zindera from Siemens Germany and others. OECD Secretary General Ángel Gurría has been previously chairing the meetings of PACI. The two key decisions taken by PACI and now almost ratified by 40 countries include “compulsory declaration” of national tax numbers of “beneficial owners” of any offshore or onshore company and that no transaction or purchase of any asset can be made in cash.
Another important step to check corrupt money getting into play is not to allow any transaction over 5,000 UK Pounds (about $7,300) and any transaction over this amount would be considered as money laundering. Coming on the heels of the UK decision to open the Public Register of property owners in UK, which will bring out thousands of names of Pakistanis who have hidden their stolen wealth in real estate, these two key decisions of PACI will plug the use of corruption money in future. Other countries which had agreed at the London summit to open such public registers included Afghanistan, Kenya, Holland, France and Nigeria while 29 countries already have such laws where the beneficial owners are disclosed. During the London and Washington meetings it was a general consensus that Panama leaks had drastically changed the anti-corruption landscape around the world. But there would be serious implications of these decisions on Pakistan, and its corrupt leaders, although Pakistan has not yet signed any of these agreements. When the registers are opened and names of thousands of Pakistani property owners in many countries are revealed, people would forget the Panama Papers. We will have a new elephant in the room. How these important changes were introduced at the world forums and who played the key role will be discussed in my next report, shortly.