From 22 to 24 October, Denmark, with the support of Transparency International, hosted the International Anti-Corruption Conference (IACC), which brings together over one thousand anti-corruption practitioners every two years. Six plenary sessions and more than fifty workshops and panels gave rise to rich discussions.
This conference was an opportunity to exchange views on the many initiatives designed to increase transparency of decision making or elections. They are often driven by the possibilities opened up by new information and communication technologies, and by reforms aimed to give citizens more access to public information and to enable them to better understand the functioning of institutions.
This edition was marked by discussions on investigative journalism, which is essential not only for the reuse of open data, but also for conducting investigations to expose corruption or breaches of probity. Moreover, Transparency International’s anti-corruption award was posthumously presented to Daphne Caruana Galizia, a Maltese journalist who was murdered just over a year ago while investigating corruption in her country. A second award honored the courage of whistleblowers by rewarding Ana Garrido Ramos, whose revelations, over ten years ago, led to the opening of the Gürtel case, an embezzlement scandal in Spain that culminated in last May’s conviction of 29 of the 37 defendants, who were former leaders of the People’s Party and businessmen, with a total of 351 years in prison, and the fall of the government of Mariano Rajoy.
The courage of these citizens, and the multiplication of initiatives that emanate from public administrations, the private sector and civil society, are sources of optimism. If the panorama remains bleak, the challenges are still numerous and sometimes of great magnitude, let us hope that the next IACC, which will be held in 2020 in the Republic of Korea, will lead to the presentation of new projects, new initiatives and new reforms to go even further in promoting integrity, transparency and corruption prevention.
INTERNATIONAL AND MULTILATERAL
On 5 October, Council of Europe Secretary General Thørbjorn Jagland and FIFA President Gianni Infantino signed a Memorandum of Understanding to strengthen cooperation between the two organizations and further develop synergies and partnerships in areas of shared interest. This agreement places particular emphasis on good governance and integrity in and through football.
On 15 and 16 October, the Croatian Chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, the Council of Europe’s Group of States against Corruption (GRECO), and the Croatian Ministry of Justice, organized an international conference in Šibenik to discuss ways of enhancing transparency and accountability in the public and private sectors in order to promote integrity.
The conference brought together over 250 senior policy makers and experts from different regions of the world. On this occasion, a declaration launching an international network of anti-corruption institutions was signed. The purpose of this network is to encourage the systematic collection, management and exchange of information, intelligence and good practices between national authorities tasked with preventing and fighting corruption.
On 16 October, the 15th Council of Europe Conference of Ministers responsible for Sport was held in Tbilisi. The intensification of the fight against corruption in sport was one of the main themes of this edition of the conference.
On 2 October, Context published an article on the tensions surrounding the reform of the EU Transparency Register. In particular, the European Commission proposed that only registered lobbyists be allowed to meet senior EU officials. However, the legal services of the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union considered that this measure would jeopardize the freedom of MEP’s mandate and contravene the diplomatic protection of the Member States’ representatives in Brussels. Consequently, negotiations between the three institutions are slow to come to fruition. The Commission regretted that the Parliament and the Council offered only voluntary commitments, which were considered insufficient to guarantee the consistent application of the principle.
A report by NGOs Transparency International and Global Witness, released on 10 October, criticized the “golden visas” programs implemented in some EU Member States, which grant passports or residence permits to non-Europeans in exchange for investments. According to the report, these practices pose risks of money laundering resulting from corruption and other criminal activities.
On 11 October, experts answered a question from the blog Strategic Europe on the EU’s action against corruption. They observed that additional efforts were needed to better control the use of EU funds. In addition, they pointed out that corruption exacerbates citizens’ dissatisfaction with Brussels, undermines solidarity between Member States, and hence threatens the very existence of the Union.
On 18 October, an EU official accused of corruption received a 15 months suspended prison sentence, and was fined 150,000 euros. He was found guilty of taking advantage of his position to favor private firms by providing their executives with privileged and confidential information, which enabled them to secure contracts through public tenders. In return, these companies would have paid 78,000 euros to his spouse.
Reuters analyzed a draft EU plan to counter money laundering, dated 29 October. According to the news agency, the document was designed in response to money-laundering scandals involving European banks and lists a number of short-term measures, but it does not propose a comprehensive reform that would correct the shortcomings of the EU legal framework for combating financial crime.
On 22 October, at the opening session of the Pan-African Parliament, the consultative assembly of the African Union (AU), the role of parliamentarians in the fight against corruption was highlighted. Presidents of national chambers were invited to the session, which recalled the importance of adopting effective legislation in this domain.
During the International Anti-Corruption Conference (IACC), from 22 to 24 October, the AU and Transparency International signed a Memorandum of Understanding on cooperation commitment to the fight against corruption. The goal of this agreement is to promote cooperation between the regional organization and the NGO in the areas of advocacy, research, awareness raising, outreach and anti-corruption capacity building.
On 28 October, as part of the 63rd ordinary session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, the forum of African civil society organizations welcomed the AU’s commitment to devote the year 2018 to the fight against corruption. Nevertheless, civil society representatives regretted that this strong political commitment does not lead to more concrete decisions by states.
On 22 October, Alan Bacarese was appointed the Director for Integrity and Anti-Corruption in the Office of the President of the African Development Bank with effect from 1 January 2019. Mr. Bacarese, a British national, comes with thirty years of experience as a senior prosecutor, white-collar crime special counsel and international anti-corruption expert.
On 10 October, journalist Pierre Haski tackled the political impact of corruption, citing the electoral success of the far-right in Brazil, the murders of journalists in Europe, and the arrest of Interpol’s president in China. He asserted that open societies, with strong institutions and a free press, are better at fighting corruption than authoritarian regimes.
The 18th International Anti-Corruption Conference (IACC) was held from 22 to 24 October in Copenhagen, under the theme “Together for Development, Peace and Security: Now is the Time to Act”. 1,500 representatives from the public and private sectors, from civil society and international organizations, took part in this edition. Several sessions and panels allowed participants to discuss ways of turning anti-corruption pledges into concrete actions.
Following a high-level event organized by the Danish development cooperation agency at the IACC, more than 45 national governments, businessmen and organizations endorsed a joint statement aiming to prevent and drive out corruption. The signatories notably pledged to take measures to combat money laundering and tax evasion, to return the proceeds of corruption, and to promote integrity in state owned enterprises. Transparency International will monitor the implementation of the joint statement in a new online platform and report series.
On 23 October, Global Witness mentioned the debate on beneficial ownership transparency at the IACC. The NGO underlined that significant progress was achieved despite the persistence of certain obstacles and the limitations of current regulatory systems.
On 3 October, Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene said that he was dismissed by former President Jacob Zuma in 2015 because he refused to apply decisions profitable for the Guptas, a family of businessmen. His testimony was referred to the commission of inquiry into the corruption scandal involving Mr. Zuma and the Guptas.
On 9 October, Mr. Nene resigned. The minister was suspected of corruption after he admitted to having visited the Guptas’ home several times. The Public Protector, an independent administrative body responsible for the oversight of public authorities in South Africa, opened an investigation into allegations of fraudulent conduct targeting Mr. Nene. President Cyril Ramaphosa stressed that Mr. Nene’s guilt was not yet determined, but justified his resignation by noting that the investigation would prevent him from carrying out his duties at the head of the Ministry.
On 13 October, Floyd Shivambu, MP and deputy president of the far-left party Economic Freedom Fighters, denied corruption allegations that were made against him. Following the publication of a report on embezzlement at VBS Mutual Bank, Mr. Shivambu and his party were accused of illegally receiving several thousand euros.
The indictment for corruption of seven Kenyan sports leaders was announced on 13 October. Former Sports Minister Hassan Areroe, and two-time Olympic champion Kipchoge Keino were among the defendants accused of embezzling over 500,000 dollars at the 2016 Summer Olympics.
On 6 October, Radio France Internationale reported that, as part of a computerization project of Malagasy criminal justice supported by the European Union, a software was tested in several courts in the country. The project’s objective is to improve the administration of justice and to minimize the possibilities of corruption at each step of the handling of a case. After a successful test phase, the software should be installed in all Malagasy criminal courts by next January.
On 19 October, as part of the creation of the Ministry of Reform of the Administration and Transparency of Public Life, Minister Safia Boly outlined her action plan. The Ministry’s activities will focus on the efficiency of public administration and resource management, on increasing transparency and access to information, and on the evaluation of public policies. Furthermore, Ms. Boly indicated that the Comptroller General of Public Services, the Commission for Institutional Development (CDI) and the Central Office against Illicit Enrichment (OCLEI) will be attached to the Ministry.
On 13 October, Nigerian authorities placed at least 50 people suspected of corruption under surveillance and banned them from leaving the country. The list of suspects was not made public, but members of the opposition seemed to be targeted by this measure. Indeed, many opposition figures, linked to previous governments, are being prosecuted for corruption.
On 5 October, the National Office against Fraud and Corruption (OFNAC) submitted its 2016 activity report to the head of state, who noted with satisfaction the progress made in the area of prevention. The report addressed the investigations conducted by the authority, such as the Petro Tim case concerning the illicit practices of an oil company, and recommended the adoption of legislation on the protection of whistleblowers, victims and witnesses of corruption.
On 19 October, OFNAC reiterated the importance of having regional interfaces for fighting corruption. In this context, OFNAC’s officials traveled to the Matam region and discussed the subject with local public officials.
Following the revelations of corruption in Algerian football, on 23 October, France Football magazine disclosed the rates charged for match-fixing. For instance, a League 1 match victory could be granted for the sum of 58,500 euros, while a draw would cost 14,500 euros.
Suspected of paying bribes for contracts in the late 1990s in Iran, the oil group Total appeared before the criminal court of Paris on 11 October. This trial for bribery of foreign public officials began twelve years after the start of the investigation, and twenty-one years after the signing of the contracts in question. The main people involved in this case, such as the CEO of Total at the time, have died. Consequently, the trial could be shortened.
On 5 October, the police questioned Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is involved in several corruption investigations. Mr. Netanyahu is believed to have granted government favors to wealthy individuals in exchange for lavish gifts, and to a telecommunications group in return for positive media coverage. Investigators had already questioned him in August and June.
On 14 October, at the opening of a joint session of the Parliament and the Senate, King Abdullah II of Jordan ensured that state institutions were able to “eradicate” corruption and hold those who embezzle public funds accountable. The statement was pronounced four months after anti-corruption demonstrations led to the resignation of the Prime Minister.
On 1 October, the results of the Afrobarometer on corruption in Tunisia were presented. According to the survey, 67 percent of Tunisians believe that corruption has increased. Moreover, 64 percent of those surveyed said the government’s anti-corruption action was “very bad”.
On 4 October, the National Anti-Corruption Agency (INLUCC) reported receiving and processing protection requests from 341 whistleblowers.
On 11 October, a government decree on asset and interest disclosure, and on the minimum value of assets, credits and gifts to declare, was published in the official journal. Two days later, on 13 October, INLUCC specified that over 350 thousand people were concerned by the declarative obligations set by the Law on asset disclosure, fight against illicit enrichment, and conflicts of interest in the public sector, which was adopted last July. In order to guarantee the enforcement of this law, the INLUCC requested a budget increase.
On 23 October, MP Riadh Jaïdane announced that a bill on the moralization of political life would soon be presented in Parliament. In this perspective, a conference brought together Tunisian and French experts to share good practices in public ethics.
In the autumn 2018 edition of the International and Strategic Review, Gilles Bataillon, research director at the School for Advanced Studies in the Social Sciences (EHESS), analyzed how corruption has become one of the central issues of public debate in Latin America. He observed that corruption enjoyed a certain social acceptance until the years 1980-1990. Indeed, the emergence of democratic regimes was accompanied by a rejection of corruption, perceived as a symbol of impediment to the free play of the market and of inequality before the law. However, according to the researcher, this demand for integrity is challenged by economic globalization, which has multiplied the opportunities for corruption, while also encouraging infringement of the rules. Thus, Mr. Battalion highlighted that the inherent tensions of Latin American modernity accentuate the importance of corruption in the public sphere.
On 16 October, the federal police requested the indictment of President Michel Temer, and of ten other people, for corruption, money laundering and criminal association. Mr. Temer is accused of receiving bribes in exchange for passing a decree that favored companies in the port sector. The public prosecutor’s office will decide if a complaint will be filed against the head of state.
On 26 October, the newspaper Libération devoted an article to the political consequences of the corruption scandal Lava Jato (“Car Wash”). The involvement of many public officials in corruption cases undermined the confidence of citizens, and facilitated the rise of Jair Bolsonaro, an anti-system presidential candidate. This retired military officer, who was not targeted by the Lava Jato investigation, promised to set up a “decent” government that would take the country out of its current “ethical crisis”. Indeed, voters of the far-right candidate claimed to vote “against corruption”, whereas supporters of the leftist candidate spoke of a vote “against hatred”, referring to Mr. Bolsonaro’s homophobic, sexist and racist views.
On 28 October, Mr. Bolsonaro was elected president with more than 57 million votes, or 55.13 percent of the votes cast. His term will begin in January 2019.
On 9 October, former Vice President Roxana Baldetti was sentenced to 15 years and six months in jail for bribery, influence peddling and criminal association. Ms. Baldetti and nine other people were found guilty of embezzling public funds allocated to clean up a lake.
On 10 October, Keiko Fujimori, opposition leader and daughter of former President Alberto Fujimori, was arrested in connection with the corruption scandal Odebrecht, the Brazilian construction conglomerate accused of paying bribes to several Latin American and African public officials to obtain contracts. Ms. Fujimori is suspected of receiving illicit donations from Odebrecht to fund her election campaigns in 2011 and 2016.
On 12 October, the Canadian Press reported that Charlie Angus, New Democracy Party (NDP) ethics critic, said that gifts offered to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his family by private companies are “problematic”. Mr. Angus pointed out that when the head of government appears publicly with clothes and accessories given by fashion labels, the latter are unduly favored. Nonetheless, the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner approved the gifts declared by Mr. Trudeau as compliant with the law.
On 4 October, The Intercept devoted an article to the influence of business groups on the Senate’s confirmation of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. According to the website, corporate lobbyists allegedly orchestrated a campaign to pressure senators in favor of Mr. Kavanaugh because the judge’s decisions would benefit the interests of large companies.
On 16 October, President Donald Trump affirmed on his Twitter account that he has no financial interests in Saudi Arabia. The president’s tweet came after the disappearance of journalist Jamal Khashoggi put spotlight on his relationship with Riyadh. As a matter of fact, CNN underlined that the business ties between the Trump organization and Saudi businessmen and officials raise suspicions of conflict of interest.
On 26 October, the City of Columbia, Missouri, launched an online tool that makes the financial information about the city government easily accessible to the general public. This initiative aims to strengthen final transparency and citizens’ control.
PEOPLE’S REPUBLIC OF CHINA
On 7 October, Interpol announced the resignation of its president, Meng Hongwei, a Chinese high-ranking public official who went missing in September. Chinese authorities confirmed that Mr. Meng was under investigation. The following day, in a statement from the Ministry of Public Security, Mr. Meng was accused of accepting bribes. Certain observers argued that the disappearance of the head of Interpol, as well as of other Chinese personalities, could be related to the repression of opponents of the communist regime. The government’s anti-corruption campaign is suspected of being used to eliminate both political rivals and dissidents.
On 26 September, the United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo accused China of seeking to expand its influence by bribing senior leaders in developing countries. In an interview with a radio station, the head of the American diplomacy claimed that Beijing bribed foreign public officials in exchange for infrastructure projects and that such practices would be opposed by Washington.
On 19 October, Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, former Deputy Prime Minister and current leader of the opposition, was charged with corruption and money laundering. Arrested the day before and released on bail, Mr. Hamid is accused of receiving bribes for awarding public contracts. He is an ally of former Prime Minister Najib Razak, who was arrested in September as part of an embezzlement investigation.
On 5 October, Transparency International (TI) and its Maldivian chapter urged the newly elected government to ensure a transparent political transition. TI worries that secret deals could allow senior officials of the outgoing administration, who are suspected of corruption, to escape accountability. Therefore, the NGO recommended that all meetings taking place between the outgoing and incoming administrations be conducted in an open and transparent manner. Specifically, it was suggested that a public record of meetings with minutes should be kept.
On 18 October, a delegation of Albanian public officials paid a study visit to the International Anti-Corruption Academy (IACA) to learn more about the Academy’s programs, trainings and other activities, and to exchange ideas about preventing and fighting corruption. The officials came from Albania’s Ministry of Justice, the High Inspectorate of Declaration and Audit of Assets and Conflicts of Interest, the Central Election Commission, and the Supreme Audit Institution.
On the occasion of the 17th summit of Francophonie held on October 11 and 12 in Yerevan, Radio France Internationale reported on the fight against corruption in Armenia. As a matter of fact, the country hosted this international event less than 6 months after the protests that brought the opponent Nikol Pachinian to power. The new Prime Minister set up a vast anti-corruption campaign. Since then, scandals and revelations unfolded one after the other.
On 9 October, the citizen platform Cumeleo, which disseminate certain public information about Belgian public officials, filed a complaint against the Vesdre police for lack of transparency because the later allegedly did not release digitized public documents.
On 10 October, about 20 people, including club executives, were indicted for fraud as part of a corruption investigation into Belgian football. The suspects are notably accused of match-fixing. The following day, arrest warrants were issued against nine people.
On 24 October, Franco-Tunisian Fabien Camus was the first player to be held in temporary custody in connection with the corruption scandal in Belgian football. Suspected of involvement in a criminal organization and money laundering, Mr. Camus was conditionally released on 26 October.
On 7 October, Bulgarian authorities announced that Viktoria Marinova, a journalist who was working on a case of alleged corruption, was murdered. Police sources expressed doubts about the direct connection between the crime and Ms. Marinova’s job. Yet, Reporters without Borders (RSF) stressed that Bulgarian investigative journalists are exposed to many forms of pressure and intimidation, and are confronted with authorities suspected of corruption and complicity with organized crime.
On 16 October, Transparency International (TI) denounced alarming signs of corruption in Georgia. On 3 October, TI’s Georgian chapter reported the alleged existence of a scheme designed to control the tobacco market to the benefit of high-level government officials, the ruling party, and members of the judiciary. TI and other NGOs urged the authorities to investigate these allegations.
From 17 to 19 October, over 40 representatives of law enforcement agencies in Kosovo followed an anti-corruption training program organized by the Italian Chairmanship of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), the OSCE mission in Kosovo and the Italian Embassy in Pristina. This program was designed to strengthen capacities for fighting corruption through the presentation of experiences and best practices of the Italian Financial Guard and Prosecution Service.
On 2 October, the ČTK news agency reported that the European Commission decided to examine allegations of conflicts of interest targeting Prime Minister Andrej Babiš, suspected of controlling the Agrofert group, a company that benefits from public subsidies. The alleged conflict of interest was exposed by the Czech chapter of Transparency International (TI) in September.
On 8 October, TI’s managing director attested that the Czech chapter of her organization acted in keeping with the anti-corruption movement’s core values and mission. The statement came in response to remarks by Mr. Babiš, who accused TI’s Czech chapter of spreading lies.
In an interview published on 16 October, political scientist Jana Vargovčíková addressed the subject of her thesis, namely lobbying in Czech Republic and Poland since 1990. In particular, she discussed the evolution and regulation of interest representation activities in these countries. The researcher also highlighted that the political action of private actors remains problematic in terms of democratic legitimation.
On 3 October, the European Commission advised Prime Minister Viorica Dancila to refrain from reforms that threaten the rule of law and the fight against corruption in her country in order to avoid sanctions before assuming the presidency of the Council of the European Union in January 2019.
On the same day, a former minister, Elena Udrea, and the former head of the Anti-Mafia Prosecutor’s Office, Alina Bica, were arrested in Costa Rica. The two former public officials were detained for the duration of Bucharest’s extradition request against them. In June, Ms. Udrea was sentenced to six years in prison for corruption and abuse of power. Ms. Bica is also being prosecuted for corruption.
On 16 October, magistrates denounced the adoption of new measures that could reduce the effectiveness of prosecution services tasked with fighting corruption and organized crime. In particular, a government order imposed a minimum of ten years of professional seniority on prosecutors of the National Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office (DNA). Magistrates believed that this requirement could lead to the transfer of several young specialized magistrates and thus risk compromising sensitive investigations.
On 28 October, Libération devoted an article to the tensions between the ruling Social Democratic Party and civil society, mobilized against the government’s repeated attacks on the independence of the judiciary and on the anti-corruption system. The newspaper pointed out that the political crisis undermined the confidence of citizens and fueled anti-European sentiments.
On 16 October, Swissinfo published an article on alleged corruption cases involving Swiss public officials. A former federal MP and two cantonal ministers are believed to have received advantages (money, gifts or travel) to “perform the duties of [their] position”, which constitutes a crime of “acceptance of advantage” under the Swiss criminal code. The article remarked that, except for this provision, the acceptance of gifts by public officials and relations with interest representatives are not closely regulated in Switzerland.
On 23 October, as Switzerland is regularly criticized for the lack of transparency of MPs’ interests and of political party funding, Le Temps analyzed the reasons that explain why transparency is mistrusted. According to the daily, there is a Swiss cultural resistance to any intrusion into the private sphere and professional secrecy, rooted in a liberal ideology, which would oppose transparency demands.