The release of the Panama, Pandora, and Paradise papers as well as the FinCEN files in autumn 2020 highlighted how — despite increased awareness of the scale of illicit financial flows — a global elite still benefits from the active assistance of banks, financial institutions, and other enablers to move vast sums of dirty money around the world. Significant and innovative research was conducted under the auspices of GI-ACE projects, focusing in particular on the role of enablers (such as bankers, lawyers, realtors, auditors, etc.) and regulatory frameworks in relation to illicit financial flows (IFFs). Reflecting the growing worldwide momentum to pass new and enhanced anti-money laundering legislation, including on beneficial ownership registers (a trend that has received a boost with the Biden administration’s commitment to crack down on illicit finance and the recent war by Russia on the Ukraine), we now seek to assess the state of the art in regard to existing evidence and remaining research gaps. An important starting point is the question about what kind of evidence might be needed to inform the development of appropriate measures to protect those in the Global South who suffer most from the connivance of professional facilitators in IFFs and other forms of money laundering and what evidence might be needed to further enhance the ability of northern governments to more effectively play their role in combating IFFs.
Past health emergencies and natural disasters, such as the Ebola crisis in West Africa, cyclones in East Africa or Hurricanes in the US saw the emergence of fraudulent charities, government and private-sector benefit fraud, identity theft, government contract and procurement fraud, and other forms of corruption at the intersection between public and private actors. As the world faces growing threats from climate change, increasingly frequent extreme weather events and health-related crises, the risk of corrupt actors exploiting emergency measures has also increased. More research is needed in order to better assess the risks and more accurately identify effective practices to better deal with crises and to prepare for and establish anti-corruption measures before a crisis hits. The recent COVID-19 crisis has again highlighted how such potential risks and opportunities for corruption in health research, development, procurement, and delivery remain present, particularly as emergency powers allow for conventional scrutiny measures to be circumvented. What is the state of the available evidence to help untangle what feasible anti-corruption measures and interventions might look like that can strengthen the resilience of vulnerable sectors, so that they are more resistant to being overridden by the invocation of emergency powers. And conversely, what are the remaining gaps that would be useful to explore?
Transactions between people and companies in an increasingly globalized world have opened new opportunities for corrupt exchanges, e.g. illicit cross-border trade, underground financial systems, trade diversion, transfer pricing, invoicing abuse. Yet, there has been little focus on how to address such corruption challenges. Commodity trading is a sector of significant strategic importance that is exposed to major corruption risks that are still insufficiently understood, with knock-on effects on the well-being of people around the world and implications for sectors such as health, technology or housing. Commodities trading companies (CTCs) – especially in the oil and gas sectors – often operate in high-risk locations with weak governance, institutions, rule of law and limited state accountability. The sector is notoriously opaque and poorly regulated, with low levels of transparency and accountability. Based on a review of existing research evidence — and guided by an approach that identifies a clear rationale as to what lens might be useful to take — we want to commission a study that will identify evidence gaps in order to help set the agenda for future work needed to help develop more effective anti-corruption interventions.