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. 



Transparency Thailand, Newsletter, March 2015


How the UK handles international corruption

Usually, huge sums of money illegally acquired by public officials is hidden in foreign accounts or used to purchase assets abroad. In the recent times, this type of corruption has gained the attention of anti-corruption agencies, governments, and civil society movements.  Some of these corruption officials have purchased property in the UK. In response, the UK has in the recent past adopted strategies that make it difficult for corrupt officials to travel to, immigrate, purchase or enjoy assets and services purchased using money illegally acquired from public coffers. Here is one such a case.

James Ibori was an ex-governor of Niger-delta state in Nigeria. Niger Delta is the largest oil producing state in the country. While serving as governor, Ibori embezzled US$ 250 million which he hid in UK banks. He used the money to purchase luxury houses, expensive cars, and other luxuries. He took his children to UK’s most expensive boarding schools.  He spent his leisure time in expensive hotels, travelled first class, and later bought a private jet worth US$ 20 million.   His monthly credit card bills amounted to approximately US$200,000 in personal spending.

Metropolitan police investigated his case, obtained evidence, arrested Ibori and prosecuted him. Even though investigations took quite long trails over time, they were successful.

The antagonist in the war on corruption: Cases of power and scandals

In the recent months, grand corruption has been much a focus. From the US to China, Brazil to South Africa, high ranking state officials and politicians are reported getting away with public funds. It appears politics, defined as who gets what, when and how; has attained new meaning. Politicians and high ranking state officials are doing all they can to get it all by corrupt means. Two major challenges emerge from this experience: (1) The power politicians and senior state officers have over national resources indicate a significant risk such that what belongs to the public stands endangered; (2) It is challenging and complex to fight corruption when the state machinery that you are supposed to rely on is in the hands of or is significantly influenced by those who benefit from corruption. This article seeks to show in highlights, the amount of money siphoned by politicians and high ranking officials in the recent years. The figures reported in this article do not account for all the money these politicians may have taken, but only what was reported at a given time. The article will also show highlight of cases exemplifying the difficulties faced by those who fight corruption around the world.

Frank Vogl in his book Waging war on Corruption: Inside the Movement fighting the Abuse of Power (2012) notes that by 1994, it took a bribe worth the following in order to get a government contract: 5% of $200,000 for a senior official in government; 5% of $2 million for permanent secretaries or director generals; 5% of 20 million for a minister; and 5% of $200 million for the head of state. Vogl obtained his information from experiences of business people in Asia and Africa.  Below is a list of estimates showing public funds heads of states/government, ministers or senior government officials got away with, or paid in bribes. These individuals held high positions in government, had long and successful careers in government, and had background in law, politics, business, and media. They had one thing in common; their access to power was instrumental in the corruption they were involved in.

Philippines: Ferdinand Marcos (President, 1966-86) took between $ 5 billion and 10 billion

USA:  Sheldon Silver (Speaker New York National Assembly, 1994-2015) received $6million 

Congo: Mobutu Sese Seko (President, 1965-1997) took between $4 and 6 billion

Italy: Silvio Berlusconi (Prime minister, 1994 to 1995, 2001 to 2006 and 2008 to 2011) paid $ 4 million bribe

Israel: Ehud Olmert (Prime minister, 2006-2009; minister, 1988, 1992, 2003, 2006) received $600,000 in bribe

South Africa: Jacob Zuma (President, 2009-2015), took $24 million

Nigeria: General Sani Abacha (President 1993-98) took $ 380 million & 700 million. Switzerland froze the money and returned it to Nigeria

Tunisia: Zine El Abidine Ben Ali (President 1987- 2011), took $161 million

Iran: Mohammad Reza Rahimi (vice president, 2009-2013) took $300,000

Cameroun: Polycarpe Abah Abah (Minister, 2004-2008) took $11 million 

Senegal: Karim Wade (Minister, 2000-2012), took $230 million 

Usually, fighting the antagonist in the war against corruption is not just a complex issue, but also a risky one. It takes boldness and sacrifice, strategy, decisiveness, faith and courage to take back what the antagonist has taken, control, or to even tackle the antagonist. The following cases show some of the challenges realized in the fight against corruption.

Expensive politics in Nigeria cripples accountability and breeds corruption  

“Godfather” is the name used in Nigeria to describe powerful individuals who control politics in the country. Usually it refers to an individual, male, who holds a higher position in government or society, and has made personal commitment to protect another individual, considered in need of protection at a given time. The one in need of protection believes that this Godfather will always protect him/her. In this faith, whether good or bad, one acts. However, God fathers are not volunteers, philanthropists, or spiritual people exercising kindness, love or mercy. In Nigerian politics, Godfathers are contracted at a very high cost, one that has over the years transformed Nigerian politics into one of the most expensive enterprises in the world, with a type of democracy that works like the market.

Nigerian law makers earn $2 million a year. This is four times what the US president earns.  Besides, whoever wins presidential election in Nigeria has a lot of influence and control over how $ 70 billion oil revenue is used every year.  To obtain party ticket in order to campaign for a legislative seat, one pays $ 10,000 as expression of interest fee. The one who wins will then forfeit half of his income as a lawmaker. This money goes to the “God father” the political patron who controls and distributes political power in the country. This is why elections in Nigeria have less to do with democracy and development. The one who wins an election is the highest bidder, one who dug deep in his pocket bought the party ticket, and later bought votes. In such a political system, public participation is not intended to improve the living conditions of the people. It is politics based on pure market practices: auctioning party tickets; paying 50% interest fee to ones Godfather; and buying millions of votes which the poor are ready to sell at any given monetary price. This is partly why politicians and high ranking officials take as much as they can from public treasury, in order to save more in preparation for the next election. 

The fear of naming corrupt individuals in Kenya

“Some forces in this country” is a phrase that expresses fear. The fear of naming corrupt individuals is a reality in Kenya.  Kenya has a past, a prevailing present where activists disappear, die in accidents, or are shot. Some people think these could be assassinations. It is rare to find in Kenyan history, an activist who died in old age.

In 2003-2004, the government of Kenya awarded 18 contracts to Anglo-Leasing Company Ltd., a British firm registered in Liverpool. The company was to supply Kenya with a wide range of services and equipment from a forensic laboratory to a navy frigate and jeeps. The contracts cost 500 million Euros, about 16% of the government’s expenditure that year.  However, the services were never delivered.  William Bellany, US ambassador to Kenya at the time argued that this money, siphoned through this contract scam, was enough to supply every HIV positive Kenyan with antiretroviral for 10 years. In 2005, John Githongo, the whistle blower in this scandal, went into exile. Githongo was Permanent Secretary for Governance and Ethics at the time he exposed the scandal. He did not feel safe. In March 2015, about 11 years later, 13 individuals were charged in court for orchestrating the scam. Media reported that businessman Deepak Kamani, serving senator, several former government officials, an American and a Briton. What makes the Anglo-Leasing scandal a major issue, is not only its magnitude, or the fact that a later government is acting on a decade long case; but the fear of naming those involved in it. Even when a case is in court, only the name of one Deepak Kamani is reported in media. This case represents one of the most challenging issues in the war against corruption in Kenya-the fear to name those involved in corruption.  

In April 2015, the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) Keriako Tobiko asked government to review the security of prosecutors and judicial officers handling high profile and transnational crimes. A few weeks after the DDP’s request, Anti-Corruption Commission chairperson Mumo Matemu said his life was in danger, after a van rammed into his car twice.

In order to continue the fight against corruption under such circumstances, journalists and activists have coined the term “some forces in this country”, a term they use to refer to corrupt individuals, who they can’t name by their real identities. One hidden rule seems to guide efforts against corruption in Kenya. And this is the rule: You can seek them, find them, see them, know them, but you can’t name them.    

Making governments more transparent: International experiences  

The reason governments were created was to provide public services. In Nordic nations, local governments for example are more established, accountable, efficient, and participatory.  They provide some of the services national governments provide in developing countries for instance education. In Japan, local governments operate at village level, where each village determines its own public service priorities and how they should be delivered. Local government is also involved in foreign policy decisions, especially those that directly affect the economy or are essential to the affairs of the local people. This shows not only the stability of government systems, but also the level of competency and accountability at which they deliver services, as well as the trust institutions have earned over time.  However, in developing countries, governments don’t always work as they should. Based on various examples from around the world, Pierre Landell-Mills (2013) points out that this has to do with money and politics.  Political influence on government systems and operations largely determines whether people will benefit from public services or not.  Drawing lessons from Landell-Mills, this article shows how governments from around the world failed to demonstrate transparency and actions taken to address these problems.

Poland: Foreign aid from the EU was about to be embezzled by local public agencies becauseinformation on aid money was not accessible to the public.In response, Polish Green Network undertook the initiative to strengthen the capacity of local civil society organizations to engage in public monitoring and to improve the regulatory framework. As a result, the money was not embezzled.

Philippines: Lack of transparency in the public procurement of drugs led to ‘ghost’ deliveries, incomplete deliveries, overpricing of drugs, poor management of health budgets, and delivery of sub-standard medicines. In response, National Citizen’s Movement for Free Elections (NAMFREL) partnered with the Department of Health to create a procurement monitoring system and codes of conduct.

 Romania: A major restructuring in the energy sector was intended to bring together two state-owned companies matching oil, mining and gas sectors.  Media was misinformed about the details. Experts however were concerned that this restructuring was going to conceal hidden subsidies estimated at US$ 3billion. Romanian Academic Society a leading think tank studied the restructuring process, developed a comparative framework of best practices, and raised public awareness over the issue.

Mongolia: Due to lack of awareness on corruption, the national anti-corruption program lacked adequate public support. In response, Zorig Foundation worked to transform media into an effective anti-corruption watchdog.  In this program, journalists engaged in a competition to investigate, cover and expose corruption in the country.  This initiative helped to raise public awareness and mobilize public support in favor of anti-corruption initiatives.

For further readings consult, Pierre Landell-Mills (2013) Citizens against Corruption


Resources on corruption





Resources: http://www.theguardian.com/books/2009/mar/14/politics





The War against Corruption: International Experiences


Prof. Juree Vichit-Vadakan on the 9th of December, 2014 chaired a high panel discussion on the topic “Winning War against Corruption: International Experiences.” Panelists who took part in the discussion were: Ms. Elodie Beth (Regional Anti-Corruption Advisor (UNDP), H.E. Paul Robiliard (Australia Ambassador to Thailand), and Prof. Pakdee Pothisiri (Commissioner, National Anti-Corruption Commission). The Panelists shared international experiences in the fight against corruption

Corruption is contagious. That is whyan all-inclusive strategy to fight corruption is essential. To realize this, it is important to involve the young people in the fight against corruption.  Corruption is not just about big scandals. Little things people do daily, what they say and think can help a great deal to prevent or reproduce corruption. That is why we need to invest effectively and strategically in behavior change.  Transparency Thailand recognizes the importance of a wider, effective, inclusive, and more comprehensive strategy to fight corruption. In light of this, Prof. Juree Vichit-Vadakan (Secretary General-Transparency Thailand) chaired a high panel discussion on the theme “Winning War against Corruption.” The panel comprising of Ms. Elodie Beth (Regional Anti-Corruption Advisor (UNDP), H.E. Paul Robiliard (The Australia Ambassador to Thailand),and Prof. Pakdee Pothisiri (NACC Commissioner) discussed among other things the importance of the following strategies in the fight against corruption: (1) Political will ;( 2) raising awareness concerning the underlying problems and need for all stakeholders to participate; (3) the involvement of the civil society and the private sector in the fight against corruption. In Thailand participation of various stakeholders is recognized as essential to winning this fight. As a result, Transparency Thailand continues to create innovative programs that aim at ensuring that new leaders have the real intention mobilize political will required to implement anti-corruption laws and practices.  At Transparency Thailand, we recognize that to prevent corruption, there is need to prioritize value transformation as an essential component of the national strategy. Therefore, we are investing in among other things, educational programs for children, students, at all levels, and civil servants.

Growing Good: How a Value based strategy is transforming Thailand

Growing good initiative aims at empowering Thai youths by teaching themabout social values and ethics to fight corruption. To realize this, Transparency Thailand working with Bangkok Metropolitan Administration uses strategies such as (1) Curriculum design; (2) Teacher training; (3) media; (4) design and distribution of anti-corruption material.

Since 2010, 5000 teachers have been trained about value change.  A value based curriculum has been designed, tested and is now used in schools. The curriculum now ranging from K1 to high school integrates both intellectual ability and values, learning by doing, sharing new values with others, and applying anti-corruption knowledge to daily life situations.

The program, which so far has benefited 600 schools in the country, reached out to 100 more schools in 2014.  A survey on the program shows that 90% of the people in Bangkok support the curriculum. 80% of the students who studied under the curriculum viewed a good person as one who is not corrupt or does not tolerate corruption.

This outstanding program success and reputation led to a request from the government seeking Transparency Thailand to design anti-corruption curriculum modules for civil servants and students. As a result, “Being Good” training course was designed. Consequently, 400 civil servants at supervisory level, from Bangkok Metropolis have been trained. A “Pundit” training course was also designed for university students. As a result, 400 National Institute of Development Administration students have undergone this training.

Winning war against Corruption

Australian Experience: H.E. Paul Robilliard, Australian Ambassador to Thailand speaking during international Anti-Corruption day.

Corruption imposes a burden to the economy. It destroys competition and has serious legal and reputation risks. Therefore, an inclusive strategy taking into account political will, private sector, civil society, and citizens is necessary. In Australia, a multiagency approach is used to tackle corruption.

To fight corruption effectively shared responsibility is required. A good mechanism to coordinate various agencies involved in the fight against corruption helps to among other things, enable agencies investigate other agencies.

Such a mechanism is supported by anti-corruption practices for instance, a highly sensitive public with high expectations and ethical standards for public officials.  A public that expects high levels of trust from public officials, demands that corruption offenders be prosecuted, forces public officials to resign when they engage in corrupt activities, and demands high value for national and company reputation, can effectively help tackle corruption. A compressive law covering various crimes for instance the penal code, Money Laundering Act, Public Information disclosure act, and laws providing for declaration of conflict of interest are used in corruption prevention.

Agencies for instance the Royal Commissions have coercive power to gather information and impose heavy sanctions against those who don’t comply. Other measures include enforcement of ethical codes, checks and balances, gift register, careful management of processes, and high standards for disqualification. Heavy penalties and investigative journalism also help in preventing corruption. A corruption offender can be jailed for a period of up to 10 years.

What makes things work? What makes a difference?

Ms. Elodie Beth (Regional Anti-Corruption Advisor (UNDP)

These are the key questions to ask when we seek to win the fight against corruption. While laws and strategies are required, how to implement these laws and strategies is important. Therefore, a range of measures working together is necessary. The fight against corruption can be successful if the following strategies are put in place: (1) Making anti-corruption a mainstream initiative; (2) Making anti-corruption war the task of every person, not just specialists; (3) going beyond the definition of corruption and changing the attitudes of individuals in society; (4) addressing poor inter-institutional coordination; (5) working with a range of stakeholders; (6) accepting that corruption is a national problem, a reality to address; and (7) working with young people.

Statements from Mr. Ban Kimoon, United Nations Secretary General

 In a statement delivered by Mrs. Thanawan Klumklomchit (UNODC Terrorism Prevention Officer), United Nations Secretary General Mr. Ban Kimoon said that winning war against corruption is a global agenda. The aim of this war is to empower individuals, catalyze governments, civil society, private sector, and to lift millions out of poverty. In this fight, high integrity in public service is required. Good behavior is good business.

Buddhism and Governance

 Transparency Thailand and Center for Philanthropy and Civil Society, on the 11th of December 2014, hosted a public lecture on the “Buddhist Concept of Management and Governance.” The goal of the lecture was to bring together university academics, practitioners in higher education management, and graduate students, to learn how to integrate spiritual values in leadership and management of organizations. The guest speaker was Amaro Bikkhu an author and Abbot from Amaravati Monastery, UK. Bikkhu taught among other things how to bring into management and governance the concept of personal and society well-being.

The Abbot also taught how to develop fundamental virtues such as: Self-acceptance; personal growth; sympathy; patience; environmental mystery; autonomy; good relations with others; Knowing yourself;  Moderation; & mindfulness. With regard to corruption, the Abbot taught 10 qualities of a good leader. These are: (1) integrity; (2) austerity; (3) gentleness; (4) generosity; (5) honesty; (6) patience; (7) love for justice; (8) working with others helpfully; (9) Freedom from anger when working with or relating to others; (10) non-violence.

Reclaimingirregularly allocated resources

The role of the state to correct past mistakes done by previous governments, individuals, private and public agencies is important in the fight against corruption.  It is important because besides addressing a long standing problem, the state sets a new culture of accountability. If this culture is continued, corrupt individuals will no longer find hope in abusing power believing that after their time in the regime, no one will question them for what they acquired illegally. Justice digging into the past may just be one of the ways to curb ever increasing corruption cases.   While this comes along with other multiple challenges, the undisputable truth underlying this approach is that corruption will reduce if corrupt individuals fail to find the reason for taking bribes or abusing power. To erode this reason, the state should deny corrupt officials an opportunity to enjoy what they acquire illegally.  Taking it back through a sustainable state policy is one way of doing just that.

Two examples from Thailand and Kenya show far reaching benefits for such a state policy.  In October 2014, the government in Thailand began the initiative to investigate and reclaim more than 348 acres (800 rai) of forest land which had been illegally acquired.  Locals had complained that the land, a section of Korat forest was illegally allocated to individuals along with title deeds.  Initial government inspection showed that about 174 acres (400 rai) of the forest land was used to grow rice.  Similarly in November 2014, the government in Kenya began to repossess 22 parcels of land amounting to 0.5 million acres

National Land Commission report showed that the land in Lamu County was irregularly allocated to 22 firms by the Ministry of lands. The land was intended to be used for private commercial purposes, following development partnership between China, Japan, and six East Africa countries seeking to build a transnational standard gauge railway and a port. With increasing demand for economic development and the expansion of private sector; public natural resources such as forests, water and land are highly exposed to corruption.  Therefore, stringent and sustainable state policy to aimed at controlling and reclaim illegally acquired public property is very essential.

Investigating Corruption Cases

Investigating corruption cases is a crucial step in the fight against corruption. Without proper investigation, it is difficult to know what exactly the public or government lost in a given corruption incident.  It is difficult to know who was innocent and who was guilty as charged. Without proper investigation, policy communities, government agencies, members of the public, and other stakeholders are denied an opportunity, maybe the only opportunity they have to know what happened, what went wrong, and how to prevent such future incidents.  Speedy and efficient investigations are likely to help prevent, control, and address corruption problems in a country. Delayed investigations are likely to hinder efforts to deliver justice in corruption cases.

In Brazil, investigations into the “Big Monthly Payment” scandal which began in 2005 are yet to be completed. All the key figures behind the scandal also known as Mensalão are yet to be tried. The “Big Monthly Payment” scheme was a fraudulent scheme where public funds were siphoned to buy political support for Lula da Silva government.  About $ 100 million (US$ 43 million) of tax payers’ money was lost.   Completing investigations and prosecuting those responsible has proven difficult.

In Nigeria, a building collapsed on the 12th of September 2014 killed 116 people among them 81 South Africans. The collapse was attributed to illegal construction, particularly failure to adhere to architectural standards. Investigations into the case are yet to be completed.  In South Korea, three relatives ofYoo Byung-eun who co-owned Chonghaejin Marine Co, were sentenced to three years in prison, after they were found guilty of   ignoring safety warning, when they allowed Sewol ferry to be illegally redesigned and carry people while overload. The vessel sunk in April 2014 killing 300 people among them students.  This shows that government’s commitment to taking action, to investigate cases of corruption, and to prosecute offenders is fundamental to tackling corruption.  

Taking anti-corruption campaign abroad

A proposal by China to create a regional network to prevent corruption, tackle the flight of criminals across borders, and curb the flow of illegal money used to run underground economies is an important step towards fighting corruption across the globe. The significance of this policy is not only in addressing the current problems, but also in laying a foundation for future international efforts to fight corruption.

Hiding corruption money abroad for instance is a practice that has been ignored for years, yet it is one of the corruption practices that cost Asia and Africa billions of dollars every year. The behavior has been this simple, a corrupt government official siphons public funds, wires it into a bank abroad, uses some of the money to purchase property there, and finally leaves the country. This is why China, one of the affected nations has recently   taken its  anti-corruption campaign oversees arresting over 288 fugitives in 56 countries including the United States, Canada, South Korea, and South Africa. As a result of the campaign, about126 suspects have surrendered. Taking anti-corruption campaign abroad may help tackle corruption since some of the corruption offenders usually take refuge in foreign countries taking along with them public wealth  they acquired.

In a letter to G20 leaders, a coalition of global activists said that illegally acquired money, approximately more than one trillion dollars is siphoned every year. Of these, about $50 billion is siphoned from Africa. This money which often ends up in foreign banks abroad can be used to alleviate poverty. This corruption has been made possible because currently, there are no mechanisms in the global financial system to prevent such transactions.

In the recent past, China and Australia have formed international partnerships to fight corruption for instance, investigating corruption cases, seizing assets, making arrests, and extraditing corruption fugitives in order to face prosecution. Similarly, coordinated efforts between US and France to investigate corruption cases involving Total Oil Company and Iranian government officials , which occurred between  1995 and 2004,  have finally resulted to the trial of key suspects involved.  In this case, it is alleged that total paid $ 60 million to induce an Iranian government official to help the company obtain lucrative development rights in three oil and gas fields related to the South pars. 

Monitor global companies


The earlier intention to include global companies in national economies was to stimulate economic growth. Development experts thought that such companies would increase competition, reduce monopoly, create jobs, and bring more revenue to the state. However, recent research and media reports indicate that some global companies are doing the contrary, maybe bringing more harm than good.

International companies report little on their financial details outside their home countries. A study by Transparency International on 124 countries shows that UK companies are the best performers while Chinese and United States companies are among the worst performers.  These companies largely work in oil, gas, and mining sectors. Failure to report fully on a company’s finances hinders government and other stakeholders to ascertain a company’s revenue and calculate due revenue and benefits for all stakeholders. Such problems may arise when there are loopholes in the tax, investment, and bilateral agreement policies, or when these laws are not enforced. In Brazil, Petrobas’ senior officials collaborated with some government officials to siphon approximately $18.5 billion from the refinery section of the state oil company. The money was used to pay kickbacks to politicians. Petrobas is a global oil company with corrupt practices to worry about, particularly the mystery to pay kickbacks to politicians, and money laundering. 

Watch out the architectural industry


A safe environment is an important aspect of development because it reduces people’s exposure to environmental hazards. People livingand working in a safe environment are likely to live long and spend less on problems caused by environmental risks. In some countries the guarantee to a safe environment is a legal requirement.  Based on this requirement, public safety policies are enacted.  To ensure a safeenvironment, the architectural industry is required to build facilities that host people according to public safety regulations.  However in developing nations, some architectural industries don’t.

In November, an apartment in Cairo Egypt collapsed killing about 19 people.  The collapse was attributed to shoddy construction, a common problem across Egypt.  Neighbors said the seven-story building has several floors illegally added to it. Rescue efforts were largely hindered by narrow streets, a sign of poorly managed city planning, and enforcement of urban management laws. Similarly in South Korea, Sewol ferry sunk in April killing 300 people among them students.  Authorities believed that the owners of the vessel ignored safety warnings, when they illegally redesigned the vessel and allowed it to carry people while overloaded.  In Lagos Nigeria, a guesthouse collapsed in September killing 116 people, among them 81 South Africans. The collapse was attributed to illegal construction, particularly failure to adhere to architectural standards. The worst case in the recent years occurred in April 2013, when 300 workers died while 1,200 were injured when Rana Plaza garment factory building in Dhaka Bangladesh collapsed. These cases show that corruption kills.  










Transparency Thailand Newsletter, January 2015



Political corruption: an imminent threat to national development  

The prevailing corruption cases involving politicians around the world reflects the imminent threat corruption imposes on the nature of democracy and development. Over the past six months, politicians while working as prime ministers, top government officials, and legislators committed various crimes detrimental to the stability of the nations they served, and the well being of those who elected them. They betrayed public confidence, looted public coffers, organized mass killings of protesting civilians, partnered with mafia and drug lords, took bribes and kickbacks, and thwarted efforts to investigate them. Most of these politicians are still walking free, out of jail or maybe have never been to one.

These comes at a time when most governments still conceal data helpful in fighting corruption despite G7 and G20 leader’s resolution seeking that such information be made available since it is instrumental in the fight against corruption. Myanmar, Mali and Haiti rank the least transparent countries in the Open Data Barometer, a global index of government data.   Top five countries which have shown greater transparency are the UK, US, Sweden, France, and New Zealand. Improving transparency on government data can help reduce corruption and improve public services. However, this is not enough since by nature corruption crimes in which politicians engage in show that society at large is running dry of values. 

People’s trust in elected politicians is diminishing in Australia after recent governments failed to put in place strong measures for accountability and public service delivery. Australia is facing three major corruption related challenges namely: (1) lack of freedom of information; (2) absence of in dependent broad based anti-corruption commission; and (3) political donations.  Efforts by the public and civil society groups to pressure legislators to enact laws to address these problems have failed. To a large extent, legislators have passed evasive laws that avoid addressing these issues. The desire to maintain secrecy, a weak anti-corruption commission, and unregulated political donations remain avenues to corruption in the country.

Some governments have tried to tackle political corruption. Thai legislature impeached former Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra over corruption clouding the rice scheme. New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver was charged for receiving $4 million in bribery and kickback schemes.  Authorities also seized $3.8 million in proceeds tied to the alleged corruption.  Silver man is one of the most powerful politicians in the state for more than two decades. He has been an Assembly man since 1994.Former Virginia governor Robert McDonnell was also jailed for two years with more two years of probation for taking bribe from a business man. McDonnell becomes the first Governor in Virginia to be jailed for taking sweetheart loans and lavish gifts from the entrepreneur. McDonnell received $50,000, a gift of $ 15,000 while a corporation he ran alongside his sister received $70,000 from the businessman.

Ramat Gan city Mayor and city officials in Israel were arrested over election fraud. The accused police say created a system of favor and reward to people from both within and without the municipality. Police investigation also showed that Yisrael Zinger, the Mayor and five others were also involved ion money laundering. In the election fraud charges, Zinger is said to have asked a media organization to campaign for him, with assurance that he would give the organization advertisement contracts after winning the election. In another case, the Court in Israel said that new developments into investigations show that more people will be investigated in relation to the Yisrael Beiteinu party. This follows a request by the prosecution to extent the detention of suspects some of whom are officials of the party. Similarly, the mayor of Rome has ordered a review of city contracts after police investigations revealed that politicians collaborate with city criminals in corrupt activities.  Italy which is ranked one of the most corrupt countries in Europe   by the Transparency International Corruption Index has criminal networks in which capital mafia pay politicians in order to win and control public contracts.  More than 37 people are under investigations.

In Tanzania, President Jakaya Kikwete sacked Land and Housing Minister Anna Tibaijuka for taking $1 million from a business man.  Tibaijuka is the highest government official to face sacking over recent corruption dealings hat has strained relations between donor and the government.  On 17 December 2014, Attorney General Werema resigned for authorizing illegal transfer of $120 million to an energy firm. Elsewhere,Cameroun’s former finance minister Polycarp Abah Abah was sentenced to 25 years in prison by a special criminal court for   embezzling &11 million which he used to buy a string of houses and cars.  The court will also seize 30 properties, eight vehicles, three tractors, and a bank account worth 26 million Francs.

The worst government performance in the fight against corruption occurred in Turkey. In December 2013, the police chief heading the financial crimes unit conducted an operation in the capital Ankara.  The operation was intended to arrest corruption suspects and prepare them for trial.  32 suspects were arrested in the operation, among them sons of three government ministers, a mayor, an Iranian gold trader married to a Turkish pop star, a real estate billionaire, and the head of the largest state run bank listed on Turkish stock exchange.  Prosecutors alleged that the suspects were a network extending to the inner circle   President Endogan traced back to 2003.  Endogan who was prime minister then denied the allegations and termed the arrests and prosecution a coup attempt orchestrated by his former political ally. Finally, the case was closed. Some of the police officers involved in the investigations were dismissed while others resigned.  This is case of a politicized fight against corruption. Not much comes out.

What followed recently was perplexing. Turkish Parliament voted against sending four former ministers to court. In what appears protecting politicians in the inner circle of the ruling Justice and Development Party, politicians used their majority vote to thwart attempts to try and investigate further corruption allegations involving top Turkish politicians since 2013.

Meanwhile, Ex-Ukraine President Viktor Yanukovych is wanted by Interpol for embezzling millions of public funds when he was president.  Yanukovych was ousted by protests and fled to Russia.  Now he has been put on the Interpol’s wanted red list.  In another public coffer looting scheme,an opposition law maker was arrested in India on suspicion of stealing funds from a multi-billion dollar Ponzi scheme that collapsed in India.  The scheme was a state based consortium of private companies running collective investment plans.  It collected about $ 4 billion from depositors before it collapsed in April 2013.

Police conduct disheartening in the war against corruption

Taking bribes, abuse of power, brutality, and extra-judicial killings are becoming the new indentify of the police service in many nations.  The role of the police to enforce the law, uphold it, and maintain order is increasingly challenged by the vices police officers exemplify when they discharge their duties daily in the streets. The way police officers handle matters of crime prevention, investigation, and law enforcement is in itself inconsistent with the values and norms of fighting corruption, let alone what the police service or police force was meant for. It is basically self defeating.  

Police across England and Wales have been ordered to review about 2,000 corruption cases after concerns were raised indicating that the cases were not properly investigated.  Police records show that near half of the cases in the hands of the police IN 2014 were not fully addressed.  In that year, police had 3070 cases. Out of these, no further action was taken on 1685 cases. Majority of these cases were related to crime, drugs, and corruption.

In the US, elite anti-narcotics cops take bribes and smuggle drugs.Approximately 0.8 million pounds of marijuana is seized on its way to the streets every year. Even though the US spends about $ 240 million a year in war against drugs along the Mexico Border, the initiative is hindered by elite anti-narcotics officers who take bribes and smuggle drugs from Texas to the other parts of the US.  Similarly, Eight Cops charged with Anti-drug mission in Australia were arrested over corruption. The officers working with Southern Suburbs drug squad have been arrested over corruption. This follows investigations by the Independent Commission against Corruption.

In what appears a case of official corruption in the Philippines, police raid in Bilibid Prison revealed that drug lords in there, were living like Kings. They lived in luxury cells enjoyed expensive whisky brands, and had stripper bars where sex workers sneaked into the prison performed.   Police found 20 air conditioned “villas” and stripper bars were built for the convicted drug lords who has also access to cash.  Bureau of Corrections Chief said he was unaware of the structures build for drug lords in the prison. This shows that even after sentencing it is difficult to get justice. Bilibid Prison is one of the maximum security prisons in the country, meant for hard core criminals.

In Thailand, former and serving high ranking police officers have been arrested in the ongoing internal police investigations into corruption cases. The suspects will be charged with a range of charges including bribery, abuse of power, and extortion.  During one of the investigations, police seized property approximately worth 10 billion baht (£194m).  Reforms undertaken by the current government involves fighting corruption. In a similar case, Police in India have suspended 563 police officers after receiving 50,000 complains from the public.  Of these, 28 cases were related to corruption prevention.  Furthermore, departmental enquiries show that 856 police officers were involved in corruption. Meanwhile, two police officers have been jailed in Rwanda for killing anti-corruption activist Gustve Makonene. The two face a 2 year jail term for killing the activist who was found dead in July 2013. Makonene was working for Transparency International near the border of Rwanda and Congo, a war torn region rich in minerals and illegal trade.  Apart from comprehensive reforms in the police force, an all inclusive approach to sustaining the changes made and establishing a new ethical practice in the police is essential.  

Corruption in the sports arena: a worrying trend with fundamental future implications

It all began with the controversial bidding of the 2018 and 2022 world cups. What has been over the years complains falling on deaf ears was finally amplified in a case major stakeholders in the sports world believed was a scandal.  This scam will be remembered in the sports history as an incident that shaped the way governance in the sports arena will be conducted.  Its significance is that it is one single sports event that has attracted immense global political attention, to an extent that not only multiple investigations are conducted, but also legislations in order to allow for political intervention in sports. This will mark a major shift from the traditional FIFA policy of state non-interference in sports. Here is a highlight of how this case will shape future sports.

FIFA has asked Swiss Police to launch investigations into the awarding of hosting rights for the 2018 and 2022 world cups to Qatar and Russia. FIFA believes that there is evidence showing that bribes were given during the bidding process. In the past, laws governing FIFA required autonomy and limited government intervention into sports affairs. This case, if found true will bring to public discourse the need to balance between autonomy and accountability in non-state driven public affairs.  

After MPs in Brussels accessed secret documents on Football Association, they are mounting pressure on FIFA to reform.  Already a proposal is out seeking reforms towards new FIFA.The European Parliament, legislators have also called for fundamental changes in FIFA and subsequent investigations. To carry out further investigations and reforms; an independent reform commission will be set with protection for whistle blowers.  This follows an earlier incident where US attorney Michael Garcia who was a co-investigator into the scam resigned after Hans-Joachim Eckert his ethics counterpart refused to publish the report on the findings in full. The Serious Fraud office in the UK will also consider evidence from the Swiss Attorney General in order to determine whether to open an investigation into FIFA corruption in the UK.   The Serious Fraud office is inviting whistle blowers to furnish the office with other necessary information.

In China, obsession for gold medals puts pressure on athletes to do all they can at all costs in order to win gold medals. This has eventually led to match fixing scandals and cheating in sports.  Since 2009, four judges, 13 footballers and nine officials have been jailed for match fixing scams.The Danish government is also calling for a special court to take care of crimes occurring in the sports arena.  If established the court will deal with cases such match fixing and other forms of corruption.  The proposal now a bill awaiting discussion and possible legislation will also include provisions for more resources for the police to investigate corruption in sports, as well as hefty penalties. Match fixing is increasingly a common corrupt practice in Europe.  

Corporations now taking over the corruption drive

Tax evasion, fraud, bribery, smuggling of minerals, and money laundering; multinational companies are doing almost anything they can to maximize their profits. It appears ethics or obedience to the rule of law does not matter anymore. What has happened over the recent past is a clear indication that some multinational companies are determined to use corrupt means to exploit wealth in countries where they do business.  

Global financial integrity report shows that about $ 1 trillion is stolen from developing and emerging economies each year.  This money is stolen through corruption, tax evasion, and crime.  Developing countries also lose more money through illegal financial flows than they gain through foreign aid and foreign direct investments. Due to this among other factors, illegal financial flows out of developing countries are growing faster than global economy.

UN study group says Africa loses about $ 50 billion (44 billion Euros) every year to tax fraud and organized crime.These crimes include illicit financial flows, international corporations evading tax, and trafficking of minerals. Large financial corporations are the biggest culprits says group leader Thambo Mbeki. In Europe, European Union’s Green party is pushing for tax evasion probe following revelations that hundreds of tax evasion deals have been undertaken by companies in Luxembourg. More than 188 EP MPs supported the proposal seeking the EU Parliament to vote on the issue. Luxembourg ranks high in tax evasion deals among EU nations. 

Recently, French industrial group Alstom SA pleaded guilty to paying more than $75m in bribes to government officials around the world and agreed to a $772.3m fine, the largest penalty by the US Department of Justice for foreign bribery. As a result,Poland may charge more people in a case involving two former managers of Alstom polish unit, for giving bribes to public servants in order to win contracts. Poland’s decision follows the UK Serious Fraud Office to charge   officials of Alstom’s Britain subsidiary who the UK say were responsible for paying up to  $8.5 million in bribes to government officials in India, Poland, and Tunisia.  

In a similar case, French company Total will face trial over claims of corruption related to Iranian contracts   since 1990s to early 2000s. This follows a coordinated effort between the US and French criminal justice systems which last year saw Total pay 398.2 million to settle US criminal and civil allegations that it had paid bribes to win contracts in Iran.  US authorities claim that between 1995 & 2004, total paid & 60 million to induce an Iranian government official to help the company obtain lucrative development rights in three oil and gas fields related to the South pars project.  

In the Banking sector, Thailand and Philippines-based "boiler rooms" laundered cash worth hundreds of millions of US dollars through Hong Kong's banking system over the past decadeInvestigations shows that banks helped the boiler rooms kingpins in what investigators believe is a violation of money laundering regulations.


Resource links

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