Protesters decry corruption ahead of Brisbane's G20 summit

Vicars and protestors have dressed up as accountants amongst a mock 'tax-haven' to highlight the problem of corruption and tax avoidance for the world's poor, ahead of the G20 summit in Australia later this month.

Protestors dressed in suits, beach hats and Hawaiian garlands, sipping mocktails in beach chairs under palm trees. The protest in Brisbane on Saturday, organised by the Christian anti-poverty campaigners Micah Challenge in Australia, hoped to highlight how money siphoned off into tax havens such as Bermuda and the Cayman Islands is hurting the poor around the world.

The campaigners said that crime, corruption and tax evasion leads to developing countries losing out on approximately $1 trillion (£630bn) each year.

Micah Challenge said that the money lost through tax dodging alone could save around 350,000 children a year.

The G20 will take place on the 15th and 16th November in Brisbane, and will discuss the global financial crisis as well as corruption, tax avoidance and transparency.

The summit includes nations as varied as Saudi Arabia, Mexico and the UK, along with a representative of the European Union. It is a forum for member countries to discuss economic matters, and claims to want to "improve people's lives". 

However campaigners are concerned that the global leaders will not consider the needs of the poorer nations. "Extremely conservative estimates show that poor nations are losing more money through tax dodging than they receive in foreign aid – with some suggesting it could be up to two or three times as much," said John Beckett, the National Coordinator of the Micah Challenge campaign.

"This money rightfully belongs to the citizens of these countries and should be used to provide essential services like healthcare, education, infrastructure and water. Instead, much of this money is being siphoned off through tax havens into the pockets of the wealthy.

"We're concerned the decisions made [at the G20] could primarily benefit wealthy countries represented at the table, and not the citizens of developing nations".

Campaigners are also calling on multinational companies to report the detail of their activities in all the countries they operate in, to increase transparency and reveal how much tax they pay in each area.

The EXPOSED campaign is asking the G20 summit to increase the openness of financial transactions so that corrupt practices can be revealed. It presented a letter to Australian Senator Claire Moore on Saturday, asking G20 countries to take clear action on corruption and tax evasion.

"Good economic practices make sense for all nations and they help business to flourish if we all play by the same rules," said Rev Joel Edwards, who heads the EXPOSED campaign, in a statement.

"If the G20 fails to act or only takes half-hearted action, then it's people who are living in poverty who will suffer most - most definitely those in developing nations, but also in Europe and Australia. Brisbane's G20 meeting is a crucial time to see resolute action."

Originally set up in 1999 following the Asian financial crisis, this month's G20 summit in Brisbane is the 9th such meeting. The G20 will meet next year in Turkey.