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British Prime Minister Unveils Overhaul To Money Laundering Rules


World leaders gathered today in London to attend an anti-corruption summit hosted by Britain's prime minister. They pledged to fight the scourge of corruption. But some transparency and development groups say they want fewer pronouncements and more real change.

NPR's Lauren Frayer sent this report from the summit venue.

LAUREN FRAYER, BYLINE: This is one of the toniest neighborhoods in London's West End, and this morning, it was swarming with security officers, as limousines ferried world leaders up to a 19th century neoclassical mansion for a summit about corruption.

It was overshadowed by a gaffe 48 hours earlier by British Prime Minister David Cameron, who didn't realize microphones were recording his conversation with the Queen at Buckingham Palace.


DAVID CAMERON: Nigerians, the - actually, you've got some leaders of some fantastically corrupt countries.

FRAYER: Fantastically corrupt, he called Nigeria and Afghanistan, just as both those country's presidents were en route to London to meet him. Asked if he'd demand an apology, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari said...


MUHAMMADU BUHARI: I'm not going to demand any apology from anybody. What I'm demanding is the return of assets.


FRAYER: Buhari said, yes, his country is corrupt, and he wants Cameron's help in finding money hidden abroad, some of it in the U.K., possibly in this very neighborhood by corrupt Nigerian officials. The two men sat on a panel together today and frankly admitted they both share responsibility.


CAMERON: If money is being stolen in Nigeria and hidden in London or hidden in New York, there's an onus on us to act as well as getting others to act.

FRAYER: London's pricey property market is a destination for illicit funds from around the world. Maggie Murphy with Transparency International says this is actually the perfect setting for a summit about corruption.

MAGGIE MURPHY: Corruption is not a developing country issue anymore. Money is going through a complex web - the banks, the lawyers, the accountants, real estate - and it's ending up in London property. Transparency International found that over two square miles of property here in London is owned by secret companies.

FRAYER: Cameron unveiled new rules on this today requiring foreign buyers of U.K. property to publish their assets and requiring Britain and most of its overseas territories to share information on who owns which offshore companies. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry was here for the U.S., and said he hopes this is the start of a big change.


JOHN KERRY: We have to say no safe harbor anywhere. We have to get the global community to come together and have a no impunity to corruption. And the minute people begin to feel that enforcement and a broad standard of application, watch how rapidly the standards change.

FRAYER: Aside from world leaders, the summit was also packed with NGOs because corruption is not merely an economic issue, says Adrian Lovett, with ONE, an anti-poverty group.

ADRIAN LOVETT: Corruption kills more children than malaria, TB, malnutrition put together because of the way that illicit money is pulled out of some of the very poorest countries, ends up in another part of the world shrouded by secrecy.

FRAYER: He says corruption is a life-and-death issue that world leaders and property tycoons in this rich enclave of London need to be reminded of. Lauren Frayer, NPR News, London. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.