International Newsletter of HATVP – August 2017
The actions of the High Authority are carried out in an international context marked by current events and growing attention regarding issues of corruption, the promotion of transparency in public life, and the integrity of public officials. The 8th international newsletter reviews the efforts, reforms, and studies conducted to meet these challenges, both within international organizations and civil society and at the national level.
INTERNATIONAL & MULTILATERAL
International Monetary Fund
On 2 August, the IMF published a policy paper on the policy to be led by the organization in supporting good governance goals and projects, while assessing the implementation and updating its 1997 guidelines. This publication highlights the importance of a new multifaceted approach to its anticorruption strategy but also axes in order to strengthen its commitments on the matter. They include the assessment of the impact of corruption with an increased analytical work in order to identify the main characteristics of the country in this field, the macroeconomic impact assessment on 3 to 5 years on some aspects such as the income gap. An additional axis lies in strengthening counsel to countries where corruption justifies the IMF support to develop anticorruption strategies in collaboration with other organizations such as the World Bank.
From 22 to 25 August, the United Nations Office against Drugs and Crime organized a European preparatory meeting before the creation in 2018 of a Global Judicial Integrity Network. The aim of this network is to enable judicial authorities, in member countries, to guarantee the rule of law and the fight against corruption.
Margarida Silva, researcher and advocate for Corporate Europe Observatory published a column in The Parliament Magazine to stress upon concerns on the European Commission strategy in the framework of the negotiations of the new interinstitutional agreement for a common mandatory lobbying register. She highlighted that the Commission proposal excludes indirect lobbying, which the Parliament would like to include, but the latter is reluctant to prevent any contact with lobbyists that would not be registered. The Council of the European Union refused to join the current scheme and seems to be still discussing the legislative tool used, an interinstitutional agreement, and the potential inclusion of Member States permanent representations in the scheme. The advocate voiced concerned on the weak progress and the absence of information on the negotiation agenda.
Council of Europe
On 1 August, the Group of States against corruption (GRECO) published the second interim compliance report for Latvia with regard to prevention of corruption for members of the Parliament, judges and prosecutors. It highlighted progresses with six out of the 14 recommendations that are now being implemented in a satisfying way. The GRECO welcomed measures taken to strengthen the independence of the Corruption prevention and combatting bureau (KNAB).
On 8 August, the GRECO published its fourth round evaluation report for Ukraine with regard to the prevention of corruption for members of the Parliament, judges and prosecutors. The GRECO recommended that all guarantees of independence and efficiency are granted to anticorruption authorities, whether the National anticorruption bureau (NABU), the National agency for corruption prevention (NACP) or the special anticorruption prosecutor office, and to give them the means to fulfill their missions. It also asked more efforts with regard to transparency of members of the Parliament, legislative footprint, but also prevention of conflicts of interests and lobbying regulation.
Open Government Partnership
On 16 August, Germany published its first national action plan in the framework of its participation in the Open Government Partnership. It included its will to become a global example in the field of open administrative data, especially within federal institutions. Its commitments cover opening and reuse of data in the fields of development aid, mobility or urban planning, environment policies, among others
On 4 August, the House of representative of Ethiopia lifted Alemayoh Gencho’s parliamentary immunity, who is also Minister of Finance and Economic cooperation, upon corruption suspicions, following a request from the attorney general. He is suspected of concluding a contract of 20 million dollars with a foreign company, without opening a call for tender.
On 16 August, in Abuja, the offices of the Nigerian Commission against economic and financial crimes were attacked, without making any victim. A death threat letter to one of the main investigators was left by the assailants. Mr. Sharu leads investigations on many cases involving high-ranking politicians and military officials. This incident intervened a few weeks after the assassination attempt against another investigator of the Commission.
REPUBLIC OF SOUTH AFRICA
On 8 August, South-African members of the Parliament rejected, by 21 votes, the no-confidence motion of the opposition party against President Jacob Zuma following the GuptaLeaks revelations, in May. Several Newspapers were given access to thousands of emails highlighting the strategies of a businesspersons’ family, the Gupta, to influence decisions at the highest levels of the State. For the first time, a secret ballot took place. It is a tight victory for the President at the end of its second and last mandate, and in circumstances of high criticisms against the ANC, Mandela’s political party.
Middle East and North Africa
On 31 July, in the framework of the large anticorruption campaign launched by the Government in May, about 20 civil servants were arrested for abuse of power and abuse of public goods.
One year after taking office, on 27 August 2016, journalists assessed the action of Prime Minister Youssef Chahed and highlighted the fact that he has been the first to launch “the war that all previous incumbents had avoided and that the whole political sphere feared”, the fight against corruption. Yet, this caused strong opposition and resurgence of old cases, favoring a new period of political instability.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
On 31 July, in an interview with journalists, the former director of the Office for Government Ethics (OGE), Walter Shaub, explained why he resigned on 6 July and highlighted the risk for the United States to be perceived as a kleptocracy. Indeed, according to him, actions of the President may give the feeling that his private interests benefit from his presidency, highlighting the fact that even the mere appearance of conflict of interests has a negative impact upon citizens’ trust in the Government.
On 2 August, in its mission to promote integrity of public officials, the Center for Public Integrity published an article to draw attention on the fact that three nominates of the Trump administration owe the Internal Revenue service money. This publication follows a project, led jointly with an investigative journalism organization, aimed at assessing financial disclosures of some 400 high-ranking public officials and nominees of the Trump administration.
In the framework of the lawsuit filed by the civil society organization CREW (Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington) in January, and after that the Trump administration asked the New York federal court to drop the case, on 4 August, CREW addressed the arguments of the administration. This answer is grounded in an interpretation of the emoluments clause of the Constitution of the United States that is perceived as peculiarly convincing by observers, whereas the Trump administration’s understanding is outdated. The organization aims at obtaining a court ruling asking President Trump to put an end to any interference between private interests and his public functions. On 9 August, judge George Daniels announced that an answer from the department of Justice was expected by 22 September and a final decision would be adopted on 18 October.
On 25 July, a new lawsuit was filed by a civil society organization, Food and Water Watch, against President Trump for illegally gathering an advisory council to assess the Nation infrastructure plan, without the required public disclosure. On 19 July, the President signed an executive order establishing this council, but it would have been advising him for months already. A similar lawsuit was filed last month against the establishment of the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity for delays or absence of information disclosure and several civil society organizations stressed defaults and opacity in the composition of advisory groups or consultative committees since the beginning of the year.
On 18 August, Steve Bannon, President Trump’s chief strategist, left the White House. He was heavily criticized for benefitting at a private level from the regulatory advice he was giving. On 9 May, a group of Democrat Senators asked three federal agencies to launch investigations on the activities of Carl Icahn, suspected of insider trading. On 18 August, he announced that he quitted his non-official functions of special regulatory advisor of the President after the criticisms raised by his role. Yet, he reasserted that he had never been in a situation of conflict of interests, minimizing his role with the President. A few hours after, in an in-depth investigation, the New Yorker revealed that the White House had already taken distances from Carl Icahn’s positions for a few weeks, notably through decisions that were not favorable to him.
On 17 August, in the framework of the Odebrecht case in Latin America, Emilio Lozola, ex-director general of the Mexican oil company (Pemex) appointed by President Peña Nieto, appeared at the attorney general’s office in Mexico. He is accused of receiving 10 million dollars in bribes in return for facilitating warding refinery contracts, for an amount of 115 million dollars, to the Brazilian Odebrecht company.
On 18 August, the former attorney general of Venezuela, Louisa Ortega, fled to Colombia with her husband, a chavist member of the parliament, after her suspension on 5 August by the new Venezuelan Constituent assembly for opposing President Maduro and declaring “unconstitutional” the fact that the Supreme Court took the powers of the Parliament in March. She announced she has evidence of the involvement of President Maduro and other high-ranking Venezuelan officials in the Odebrecht scandal. She detailed that the President benefitted from the food assistance program to Venezuelan citizens and would have received important bribes against awarding public contracts to the Odebrecht company for big infrastructure projects in the country, during the meeting of anticorruption prosecutors of Mercosur to which she was invited on 23 August. President Maduro counter-attacked by asserting that the ex-attorney general did not support the government in its fight against corruption and blocked several investigations.
On 27 July, the former director general of Petrobras from 2015 to 2016 and of Banco do Brasil from 2009 to 2015, Aldemir Bendine, was arrested. He is suspected of asking 4,6 million euros in bribes to the Odebrecht company when he was the director of Banco do Brasil to extend the loan of one of its subsidiaries, that Odebrecht would have refused to pay. Still, Odebrecht would have paid him 800 000 euros before he left Petrobras to avoid being compromised in the Petrobras scandal. He is suspect of receiving the same amount again in 2017.
After being condemned in another case in July, on 1 August, the ex-President Lula was charged for the sixth time for corruption and money laundering in a new case, this time for benefits received in the renovation of a farm that he owns according to the judge Sergio Moro, and which Lula keeps denying. In addition, on 31 July, the Federal prosecutor’s office appealed the decision adopted on 12 July by Sergio Moro condemning Lula to a 9 and a half year-imprisonment sentence and to pay a 16 million reais indemnity, asking for heavier sentences. He was found guilty for receiving bribes against awarding contracts to the OAS and Odebrecht companies, but was cleared with regard to the accumulation of personal assets during his presidency, as there was no evidence on 12 July.
On 2 August, the deputies rejected the bribery prosecution request against Michel Temer, President of Brazil, suspected of passive corruption. He would have indirectly received a suitcase of 135 000 euros, handed by an agro-business company. After the vote, the President asked the disqualification of the attorney general Rodrigo Janot. Indeed, the latter announced he would launch proceedings against Michel Temer also for attempts to obstruct justice and involvement in a criminal organization.
On 22 August, former President of Brasil and now Senator Fernando Collor de Mello was charged for passive corruption, money laundering and involvement in a criminal organization in the framework of the Petrobras case. He is accused of receiving about 8 million euros for diverse affairs. He is the third senator to be formally charged in the framework of this case.
On 21 August, the President of Peru, Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, signed a constitutional amendment making corruption offences imprescriptible in Peru. This amendment completed the Civil death law implemented by the Government since 2016 and that forbids access to civil service position to any person condemned for corruption offences.
Asia – Pacific
REPUBLIC OF KOREA
On 25 August, after the prosecutor asked for a 12-year imprisonment sentence, the heir of the Samsung Group, Lee Jae-yong, was found guilty and condemned to a 5-year imprisonment sentence for corruption and perjury, for offering 38 million dollars to four entities managed by the confident of the ex-President Park Geun-hye, against favors for his group. Samsung did not deny the transfers, but Lee keeps denying his involvement. His lawyers will appeal the decision.
After the Nawaz Sharif’s destitution in July, suspected of corruption in the framework of the Panama papers, on 1 August, the members of the Pakistanese Parliament elected Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, former Minister of petroleum, as the Prime Minister. He will be in charge until the next legislative elections in 2018, in order for ex-Prime minister’s brother, Shahbaz Sharif, to be able to run for the seat left by his elder brother.
On 16 August, the trade vice-minister was fired after the Central Inspection Committee concluded she was responsible for failures in the management of an electricity company, in the framework of a vast anticorruption operation. Ho Thi Kim Thoa would have violated rules on lands, privatization and assets disclosure notably.
On 17 August, during a conference on the fight against corruption organized by the House of Parliament, the investigative journalist Linton Besser asserted that one more scandal should be enough for Australia to admit the necessity ot create a federal integrity commission. The money-laundering scandal of the Commonwealth Bank was recently added to the list of justifications for the creation of such an anticorruption agency, at the federal level. The former director of the independent commission for the fight against corruption in New South Wales, David Ipp QC, who also participated, recalled it would represent a systemic mean to approach corruption offences. A report from the advisory Committee of the Senate on this matter is expected to be published on 13 September.
On 23 August, a project of reform of the judiciary system caused an uproar. It would notably reduce the competences the National anticorrutpion prosecutor (DNA), who would no longer be able to investigate on magistrates, and would suppress the President from the nomination process of the main prosecutors and especially those of the DNA. President Klaus declared “these proposals represent an attack against the rule of law, the independence of the judiciary and the fight against corruption”. On the following day, the European Commission voiced concerns and asked the Romanian Government to give further explanations.
On 11 August, the Court of Auditors published the mandates, functions and professional activities performed by the public officials in 2016. The cumuleo.be website updated its databases and concluded there has been an improvement in the mandates disclosure rate. Nonetheless, 138 public officials failed to fulfill their declarative obligations and among them, 49 did not submit a declaration of assets. The ai mis to prevent any situation of potential conflict of interests. The founder of Cumuleo concluded that the recent scandals allowed to increase transparency on the mandates detained by public officials.
On 1 August, the Minister of Justice gave his colleagues of the Cabinet an overview of the future Criminal Justice (Corruption Offences) Bill. It is likely to include new offences such as influence trading for instance. If it follows the general framework presented in 2012, the Bill should allow Ireland to conform to the standards and best practices at the international level in the field of the fight against bribery and corruption.
On 9 August, Politico.eu reported on the lobbying reforms introduced in Ireland. The system that has been implemented for two years allowed an increased transparency on relations between lobbyists and public officials and is considered as a model at the international level. 8 Member States of the European Union adopted mandatory registers, even if legislations are not as strict as they are in Ireland, and the European Union institutions are about to start the negotiations of an interinstitutional agreement on a common mandatory transparency register.
A the end of the parliamentary session, on 4 August, the Kyiv Post got back on the action of Ukraine in the field of the fight against corruption, including on the absence of adoption of a law creating a proper anticorruption prosecutor’s office and the obstacles faced by the National anticorruption Bureau, the Agency for the prevention of corruption and the e-declaration system.
The bribery trial of the Russian ex-minister of Economic development, Alexei Ulyukayev, started on 16 August. He denounced the absence of evidence and the fact he had been set up. In November 2016, he was arrested for receiving 2 million dollar bribes for authorizing a Russian oil company to buy a regional oil company, Bashneft, an operation he was opposed to at first. He said he was subject to a slanderous denunciation. He named Igor Sechin, director general of the giant petroleum group Rosneft and Vladimir Putin’s close ally that he criticized at the time for the opacity of the procedure, as being responsible.
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