China suspends G20 anti-corruption task force
HONG KONG – China suspended an international anti-corruption task force earlier this year after taking over the G20 presidency, according to six individuals in the group, who called it a setback to global efforts to crack down on shell companies used to conceal assets.
The so-called “Business 20” Anti-Corruption Taskforce, comprising businesses and civil society groups, had been drawing up G20 policies for increasing transparency of offshore financial structures, among other work, but the body was scrapped in late January because Chinese companies declined to participate, according to the sources.
China is one of several countries under pressure to share data on paper companies after the “Panama Papers”, documents from Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca, revealed how the rich and powerful use such structures to avoid taxes and in some cases conceal ill-gotten gains. They were published by German newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung and more than 100 other international news outlets.
The B20, the G20’s business outreach arm, and its various task forces are by convention led by companies from the nation holding the presidency.
The state-run China Council for the Promotion of International Trade (CCPIT), this year’s head of the B20, did not provide an explanation for suspending the anti-corruption task force and did not respond to several emails, faxes and phone calls requesting comment.
But three people who had worked on the task force, who represented international, U.S. and European institutions, said the trade group could not persuade a Chinese company to take on the role of leading the task force, even though around 150,000 Chinese businesses are effectively state-run.
The sources cited the CCPIT as saying a one-off anti-corruption convention to be held later this month would be a sufficient substitute, despite strong counter-lobbying from international businesses and NGOs.
“It’s a disappointing indictment on the environment in China that no company was willing to step forward,” said one of the sources. “This is a critical agenda and we had built up momentum, and this decision has taken the wind out of the sails.” The Chinese foreign ministry did not respond to requests for comment. -Reuters