Washing dirty money and corrupting people needs a ‘creative’ brain!
INTEGRITY BEAT - Henry J. Schumacher (The Freeman) - November 22, 2019 - 12:00am

I came across a very interesting anti-integrity story reported by Transparency International, which I would like to share with you:

If you are a tourist travelling from Iceland (in the north of Europe) to Namibia (in the south of Africa), it will take you around 22 hours by plane with layovers in Norway and Qatar.

If you are a company looking to clean some dirty money, however, you might fancy a (virtual) detour to the Marshall Islands (in the central Pacific Ocean, between Hawaii and the Philippines) to set up a shell company – it won’t even take you much longer.

It very recently turned out that Samherji, one of Iceland’s largest fishing conglomerates, seems to have done exactly this. A joint media investigation based on thousands of leaked documents revealed a textbook example of how legal loopholes and secrecy jurisdictions enable corruption and environmental exploitation on a global scale.

Samherji reportedly used an anonymous shell company in the Marshall Islands to launder the proceeds of illegal fishing activities off the coasts of West Africa and bribe members of the Namibian government. Two ministers have already resigned over allegations that they granted the company preferential access to fishing grounds in exchange. 

The company allegedly used shell companies in other tax havens such as Dubai, Mauritius and Cyprus, too. Most of the money that flowed through these companies can be traced back to a bank account at Norwegian state-owned bank DNB NOR.

The Samherji case shows how badly we need banks to up their anti-money laundering game, and the importance of more active enforcement against foreign bribery. It also highlights the role that secrecy jurisdictions play in facilitating corruption when they allow the real, or beneficial, owners of companies to remain anonymous. Two years after the “Paradise Papers”, offshore tax havens are still open to all kinds of fishy business.

Reading this, the question is, whether we can really rise to integrity challenges?

Digital technology will be key in the future fight against corruption. Corrupt actors will make themselves at home in new digital spaces, by using cryptocurrencies to launder money, by manipulating and stealing data and by leveraging AI and machine learning.           

But it’s not necessarily all bad news. If corruption fighters succeed in using technology more effectively than those exploiting it for corrupt purposes, it may be one of the biggest opportunities to foster positive change.

Driven by growing pressure from customers, companies are waking up to the importance of good governance and ethical behavior. There is an ever-growing range of benchmarking tools, integrity frameworks and networks that are often just waiting to be properly implemented.

Everybody has to understand that Integrity starts with ‘I’ – with me, with my involvement, and my understanding that if I am not part of the solution, I am part of the problem!

Feedback is hoped for; contact me at schumacher@eitsc.com

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