“Modern corruption has a white face”

But it is peanuts compared to the much bigger sums that are raked in by the lawyers, accountants and other silky advisers who base themselves in the City of London and use Britain’s network of crown dependencies and overseas territories in Jersey, Guernsey, the Caymans and the British Virgin Islands.

Until the UK stops encouraging, advising and facilitating guilty men and women looking to stow their shady cash offshore, corruption will continue to flourish.

Modern corruption is a suit in a Panamanian office, who takes that general’s billions and sends it on to a private bank account, no impertinent questions asked along the way. It is the Mayfair estate agent who sells that multimillion-pound townhouse to an oligarch. It is that accountancy firm in the City that fills out the paperwork structuring the rich man’s affairs so that the money goes through one of their far-flung branch offices to wind up in a trust in the tax-free zones of the Caymans or the British Virgin Islands.

As yesterday’s letter from 350 top economists points out, there is no economic justification for these tax havens. They do not serve primarily to keep taxes in other countries down, but to allow very rich people to duck out of their obligations to the societies they live in. They shelter dirty cash from dictators, and siphon money out of developed countries.

Corruption can no longer be dismissed as a developing world problem