Wednesday, November 5, 2014

China accused of blocking G20 anti-corruption agenda; Transparency International Billboard banned

China is being accused of attempting to block key anti-corruption principles scheduled to be discussed at the G20 Leaders Summit to be held in Brisbane in a fortnight.

The anti-corruption watchdog Transparency International says the Chinese government is resisting proposed measures that would unravel complex corporate ownership structures that can hide who really controls a company.

The draft beneficial ownership principles are critical to a global corruption crackdown on shell companies and secret jurisdictions and a range of opaque practices that allow individuals to launder dirty money.

Transparency International's senior advocate at the G20, Maggie Murphy, says a Chinese veto would take the anti-corruption principles off the table.

"If China does not sign on to the principles that are on the table, the G20 is consensual and they will not ahead and that would be a really blow to what has been  a really great initiative driven by Australia from the start," Ms Murphy told the ABC.

"At the moment, the document has already been passed at a couple of different levels within the G20 structure. What would be lacking would be that final signoff from leaders and without that it's a real blow to true political will."   

"Nothing gets through unless everyone's happy."

The banned G20 anti-corruption billboard for Brisbane Airport deemed too political Source: Transparency International

The reluctance of China to sign on to anti-corruption measures comes as the world's second biggest economy targets government officials, military leaders and business chiefs allegedly involved in corruption.

Ms Maggie says although China prefers to manage its own affairs, the move to block anti-corruption measures is intriguing.

"China itself is trying to push forward its own anti-corruption initiatives and really trying hard to put a stop to money flowing out of its own country,"

"What these beneficial ownership principles would do would be to make it  harder to hide your identity and harder to shift those funds out of the country. And that means potentially corrupt politicians and corrupt public officials in China itself.

"We think it's absolutely in China's interests to adopt these principles and to go even further themselves."

With a fortnight to go before G20 leaders arrived in Brisbane, it is understood organisers are working behind the scenes to keep the anti-corruption pact alive.

"Achieving consensus among all G20 members on an approach to beneficial ownership transparency is an important objective for Australia's G20 Presidency," a G20 spokeswoman said.

"We are working constructively with all G20 members to achieve this.  It is not for Australia to comment on the views of any individual G20 member. Any decisions around beneficial ownership taken by G20 leaders will be announced at the conclusion of the Brisbane Summit."

But as preparations ramp up, Transparency International is protesting a decision to ban a billboard which would greet leaders and delegates outside Brisbane Airport.

Transparency International says the billboard's slogan "dirty money not welcome here - G20 it's time to act" was regarded as too political for the G20 Summit.

Maggie Murphy does not know who made the decision but says until now, Transparency International has had good relations with G20 organisers.

"It seems strange we can't communicate this big anti-corruption message to citizens," Ms Murphy said.

"With this G20 anti-corruption drive, we would hope that all of the leaders and any political party would stand by this message."

However, Australia’s G20 organisers have washed their hands of the decision to veto the controversial billboard.

“The decision to accept or refuse content for the billboards at the Brisbane Airport is a matter for the advertising company which owns the license for the billboards and the Brisbane Airport Corporation. These are not decisions in which the Australian Government has a role.”

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