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    Demonstrators dressed as businessmen protests against tax avoidance at a tropical 'tax' haven in central London on May 12, 2016, near the venue of the Anti-Corruption Summit London 2016.

    'Drain the Swamp': Trump's Anti-Establishment Threat Rings Alarms in London

    © AFP 2019 / Justin Tallis
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    US President-elect Donald Trump's threat to stamp out favoritism and political social advancement has hit home in London, where many are heeding his calls to for "the entire corrupt Washington establishment to hear the words we are all about to say: when we win ... we are going to drain the swamp."

    Trump made it a central plank of his presidential run to attack the establishment in Washington, accusing Hillary Clinton of being part of the same system that allowed a small group of political families to rule over Capitol Hill.

    Much of his support came not only from Republican voters, but from Democrats too, who wanted to see the "establishment" given a good kicking, in much the same way as the Brexit vote in the United Kingdom was seen by many as a show of defiance against the Westminster "bubble."

    Robert Barrington, Transparency International UK's Executive Director said the Brexit result was a "wake up call" and that Trump's election echoed the cries of discontent among ordinary people against the centralization of power and favors.

    "For years, the British establishment has ignored the warnings. Party funding is unreformed; lobbying is unchecked; the revolving door continues; serial breaches of parliamentary ethics, from minor to gross, are overlooked or barely punished; the Committee on Standards in Public Life is denigrated or undermined," he wrote in a blog published in the London Daily Telegraph newspaper.

    "Key defenses against corruption are abolished; special interest groups from tax advisors to banks seem to have hidden safeguards protecting their own interests; corrupt individuals buy London property and flaunt their wealth with impunity. The rich are getting rich, and the poor are getting poorer. Who would not vote to end all that?"

    Tax Havens

    His comments come amid growing calls for more transparency over British involvement in offshore tax havens, which have been used to — legally — cover up beneficial ownership of properties in the UK as revealed in the Panama Papers.

    ​According to Transparency International, at least US$152 billion worth of property in England and Wales is now owned by companies registered offshore, and 75 percent of properties whose owners are under investigation for corruption made use of this kind of secrecy.

    A Joint Ministerial Council held in London, November 1 and 2, saw representatives from many UK oversea territories — including well-known tax havens Bermuda, the British Virgin Islands, the Cayman Islands, Gibraltar, and the Turks & Caicos Islands — meet to discuss a "shared vision."

    However, Rachel Davies Teka, Senior Advocacy Manager at Transparency International UK, said: "It is disappointing that yet another opportunity has been missed to lift the veil of secrecy from the UK Overseas Territories that continue to facilitate global corruption.

    "Although these jurisdictions have taken steps forward by committing to establish central registers of beneficial ownership or 'similarly effective systems', it is vital that these registers are made public to allow full scrutiny over the real owners of companies that operate in the UK," she added.

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    Tags:
    offshore tax havens, offshore companies, Panama Papers, tax haven, 2016 US Presidential election, Brexit, Transparency International, British Virgin Islands, Bermuda, United Kingdom, Panama, London
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