Transparency Thailand, April, 2015


Grand Corruption: What are nations around the world doing about it?  


One of the things we do at Transparency Thailand is to survey the world of corruption, and bring you stories full of insights; educative stories that will definitely change your perspective or challenge you to do something about corruption. In April, we came across stories on political corruption and what governments around the world are doing about the tendencies of top leaders who often take what does not belong to them. While this is not new; the rise in efforts by various governments around the world to tackle high ranking government officials involved in corruption is worth a note.  In this  newsletter, we present to you  select cases of corruption from around the world, and what governments are doing or have done about it.  Will these efforts bear fruit?  What do you think will work and what will not? What is it that these governments are doing different?  

Chile: Chile's president Michelle Bachelet asks entire cabinet to resign amid crisis


Chilean President Michelle Bachelet said on Wednesday that she has asked all her cabinet ministers to submit their resignations, and she will decide who stays and who leaves in the next 72 hours. Bachelet is faced with the lowest approval ratings of her political career and recently acknowledged that corruption scandals have rocked her administration. "Some hours ago I asked all of my ministers to submit their resignation," Bachelet said in a local Chanel 13 interview with Mario Kreutzberger, better known as Don Francisco, the popular host of "Sabado Gigante."


"This is the time for a cabinet change."

Chile's corruption is among the lowest in South America. But trust in politicians and the business elite has been eroded amid a recent bank loan scandal involving Bachelet's son, as well as a campaign financing scandal involving right-wing politicians and a prominent financial company. The recent controversy involving her family has taken a big toll on Bachelet's image, as she won the presidency last year promising to fight against Chile's inequalities. "I think the corruption scandals are part of it, but everything points to this as being a reaction to her low popularity ratings," said Guillermo Holzman, a political science professor at the University of Valparaíso.


"The announcement, the way she does it and the surprise it caused lead us to think that this could part of a profound change." A poll released on Wednesday shows Bachelet's approval rating at 31 percent in April, unchanged from March. That's the lowest for her current administration as well as her 2006-2010 presidency.The survey was carried out by Gfk Adimark, which surveyed 1,049 people between April 7and 29. It has an error margin of 3 percentage points.


South Korea: South Korea's Park names new PM after scandal strikes again

SEOUL (Reuters) - South Korean President Park Geun-hye nominated her justice minister as prime minister after the incumbent stood down amid scandal - her sixth choice for the job since taking office in 2013.

Three of her nominees have stepped down before confirmation amid allegations of personal improprieties and two served, although the second also resigned amid scandal.

Lee Wan-koo stepped down as premier in April amid allegations he accepted illegal campaign funds from a businessman who committed suicide after telling a newspaper that he had given money to prominent politicians.

Justice Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn, a career prosecutor, "is the right person to uproot corruption across society and accomplish political reform so we can create a new country", Park's public affairs secretary said on Thursday.

Park has vowed to clean up political corruption as her ruling Saenuri Party tries to maintain its parliamentary majority in a general election to be held early next year.

The post of the prime minister is largely ceremonial as the formal head of the cabinet which is appointed by the president and administers policy set by the government and approved by parliament.

Public opinion polls released in the past week put Park's support ratings at just above 40 percent, recovering slightly since April after slipping to their lowest point earlier this year.

Prosecutors have questioned Lee and another prominent ruling Saenuri Party politician on whether they received money from the dead businessman, Sung Wan-jong. Both have denied the allegations.

(Reporting by Jack Kim and Seungyun Oh; Editing by Nick Macfie)


Guatemala: Guatemala Wiretaps Lead to Fraud, Bribery Cases in Gov't

GUATEMALA CITY — Wiretappings that prosecutors used to track down a million-dollar fraud ring run out of the Guatemalan government have cost the vice president her job and now may lead to the Central American country's Supreme Court.

Recorded telephone calls obtained by The Associated Press show backdoor negotiating between a businessman, lawyers and suspects to pay bribes to free those detained in a scheme to defraud the state of millions of dollars in customs payments.

In a call dated April 16, clothing boutique owner Luis Mendizabal tells detainee Javier Ortiz to remain calm because he will be out soon, and mentions Supreme Court Justice Blanca Stalling Davila."Blanca Stalling is behind it and they have very good communication," Mendizabal said of the behind-the-scenes negotiating to get Ortiz out of jail.

Stalling Davila told the AP late Sunday that she does not know Mendizabal, and that he could be confusing her name with her sister-in-law, Marta Sierra de Stalling, also a judge, who has been implicated in the case.

"I don't know anyone related to these people," Stalling Davila said. "I don't have a reason to apply any kind of pressure nor interfere with any process."

The tax fraud scheme has rocked Guatemala's political class since it was announced in April and has become the largest corruption scandal for a sitting president, in this case Otto Perez Molina. Former Vice President Roxana Baldetti resigned Friday and gave up her immunity from possible prosecution, a move lauded by Perez Molina.

Baldetti's former private secretary, Juan Carlos Monzon Rojas, is alleged to have been the ringleader of a scheme to defraud the state of millions of dollars by taking bribes in exchange for lower customs duties. Monzon is a fugitive whose last known whereabouts were overseas, and he is being sought by authorities.

In a separate but related case against Mendizabal and others, five lawyers were arrested on Friday for allegedly bribing a judge to free suspects jailed in the corruption case. Prosecutors and a U.N. investigative commission said the attorneys paid Judge Marta Sierra de Stalling to release three suspects on bail, including Ortiz. He was later re-arrested after authorities learned of the bribery scandal.

Sierra de Stalling has not been charged because of judicial immunity, but prosecutors have asked the Supreme Court to revoke her immunity. Prosecutors say Sierra de Stalling heard the cases against the fraud suspects rapidly and freed three ringleaders and three employees of the Tax Administration involved in the case, arguing that they were not public officials.

Authorities say the facilities of Mendizabal's clothing boutique, Emilio, were used as the hub by the fraud ring. He also is a fugitive. In another phone call, he is told by Ruth Emilza Higueros, one of the detained lawyers, that the law firm has various lawyers working on his case with "a lot of knowledge and a lot of friends."

In the general corruption case, investigators say the fraud ring received bribes from businessmen to evade paying import taxes to the Treasury Departments. At least 50 private citizens and public officials, including Guatemala's current and former tax chiefs, are suspects in the customs scandal. Prosecutors said 27 are in custody.

Stalling Davila oversees all judicial matters on the Supreme Court that have to do with criminal cases. Her arrival to the bench was a troubled one, amid claims by civil groups that the election of judges was fraught with irregularities.

Egypt: Mubarak sentenced to three years in jail for corruption

An Egyptian court has sentenced ousted president Hosni Mubarak and his two sons to three years in prison for embezzlement. Mubarak and his sons Alaa and Gamal were present in the caged dock on Saturday, wearing suits and sunglasses. They had already been sentenced to three years on the same charges but an appeal court overturned the verdict and ordered a retrial. The trios were also fined $16m. Mubarak's lawyers may try to appeal the verdict, the AFP news agency reported.

Supporters shouted in anger as Judge Hassan Hassanin announced his verdict and it was not immediately clear whether it will include time he has already served since his country's 2011 revolt. Some of those backing Mubarak wore T-shirts emblazoned with the former leader's face. They waved and blew kisses as the 87-year-old entered the courtroom, according to the Associated Press. Omar Ashour, a lecturer in Arab and Islamic Studies at the University of Exeter, told Al Jazeera the sentencing would be seen as "nothing" by Egyptians who protested to end Mubarak's rule. "When we see the series of brutal abuses that happened under Mubarak in his 30-year reign, it will be seen as nothing, especially when we look at the trial happening now of former president Mohamed Morsi," he said."It tells you that there is very high politicisation of the judiciary."

The corruption case, dubbed by the Egyptian media as the "presidential palaces" affair, concerns charges that Mubarak and his two sons embezzled millions of dollars worth of state funds over the course of a decade. The funds were meant to pay for renovating and maintaining presidential palaces but were instead allegedly spent on upgrading the family's private residences. Mubarak was sentenced to three years, his sons to four in the case, prior to having the verdicts overturned. The hearing, at a police academy on the outskirts of Cairo, took place in the same courtroom where Egypt's first freely elected president, Morsi, was sentenced to 20 years in prison last month.

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