A leak in the Pandora Papers shows that the United Kingdom is on the verge of becoming a corrupt country since it is failing to take economic crime seriously enough, says the former chair of the public accounts watchdog.
Speaking to MPs in the Commons, Dame Margaret Hodge, a senior Labour MP, raised the issue, emphasizing the central role of London in promoting economic crime.
Hodge, who made the remarks as part of a debate on the finance bill, called for more funding for financial crime enforcers.
The Pandora Papers leak, exposed in October by the Guardian and an international consortium of journalists, is “the largest cache of documents we have ever received” in relation to tax havens, she said.
“The UK lies at the heart of everything revealed there,” she said. “Others have talked about secret property transactions that took place – £4bn identified in the Pandora Papers. There are more UK citizens cited in that tranche of leaks than from any other country. The relationship between the UK and our tax havens is central to the facilitation of economic crime, and again we see the weak and toothless enforcement agencies.”
Hodge demanded twice or three times the planned £100m tax for fighting money laundering in order to tackle financial crime
It is “absolutely critical that we do start taking economic crime seriously in this country,” she noted.
“If we don’t, we are in danger of allowing that to seep into our politics, seep into the public domain, and far from being a trusted jurisdiction we become a jurisdiction that is not very different from others to whom we all too often preach that they should tackle the corruption that is endemic in their administrations. We become one of them.”
She said that £100bn the National Crime Agency estimates is laundered through the UK each year was probably an underestimate.