Corruption is more than the abuse of public office for personal gain. Ministers, officials and policemen who accept bribes or substantial gifts and the givers of such "sweeteners" are corrupt, but corrupt practices permeate many businesses and sports.

Corruption is not limited to countries such as Nigeria and Afghanistan, which British Prime Minister David Cameron, in an unguarded comment, caught on camera, before the London summit meeting on corruption, described as "fantastically corrupt." At the conference, the Nigerian president, in a riposte to his British host, demanded that more should be done to return to Nigeria the funds sent through international banks in London by corrupt Nigerian nationals. The role of the banks in laundering money from corruption was an important theme at the conference and there was general agreement on the need for much greater transparency and in particular exchanges of information about the beneficial owners of companies registered in tax havens.

While some British dependent territories were represented and defended their record over transparency, the British Virgin Islands, which features so frequently in the leaked Panama Papers, was conspicuous by its absence and statements issued on its behalf did little to satisfy its critics. Some American states such as New Jersey have also failed to clear up their procedures. More needs to be done by both the British and U.S. authorities to ensure that money launderers and kleptocrats are exposed and forced to pay financial penalties.