The action of the High Authority is implemented in an international context marked with news and increasing attention to issues such as corruption, promotion of transparency in public life and integrity of public officials. The newsletter for April 2017 refers back to studies and efforts led to respond to such challenges, whether within international and civil society organizations or at the national level.
INTERNATIONAL & MULTILATERAL
Council of Europe
On 18 April 2017, the Group of states against corruption (GRECO) published a report highlighting concerns about the use of emergency procedures to amend legislation in the field of the fight against corruption in Romania. It got back on the implementation of a majority of recommendations of the GRECO about incrimination of corruption and party financing transparency that was judged satisfactory so far, and encouraged Romania to take measures regarding pending recommendations.
In its report published on 24 April, the GRECO congratulated Lithuania for measures that were taken regarding prevention of corruption of members of the parliament, judges and prosecutors and for the partial implementation of a certain number of recommendations, especially with regard to members of the parliament. Yet, it highlighted the necessity to reinforce cooperation between the Chief Official Ethics Commission and other institutions in charge of prevention of corruption of members of the parliament, judges and prosecutors.
Committee of Ministers
On 22 March 2017, the Committee of Minister of the Council of Europe adopted a recommendation calling its 47 member States regulations in order to promote transparency of lobbying. It recalled the useful and legitimate contribution of lobbying in the definition of public policies and in an enlightened decision-making process, but that must not be done at the expense of ethics and integrity.
On 6 April, the European Parliament adopted a resolution following Alexeï Navalny and other protestors’ detention during protests against corruption in Russia, on 26 March and 2 April 2017. It expressed its concerns with regard to protection of Human rights and the Rule of law and to motives and sanctions pronounced against political opponents.
European Public Prosecutor office
In an article published by Euractiv on 11 April 2017, the French national financial prosecutor’s office, headed by Eliane Houlette, got back on the project of creation of a European public prosecutor office that would simplify investigations and facilitate coordination in fiscal fraud affairs or in the framework of complex cases such as the Panama Papers. The discussions on this European project, which was proposed in 2013 by the European Commission, are still at an early stage as during the European Council of 3 March 2017, 19 Heads of States decided to implement an enhanced cooperation on this matter. Other Member States may nonetheless join the discussions or the project at a later stage.
On 5 April, Global integrity published the 2017 edition of Africa Integrity Indicators. The cover transparency, accountability and development in 54 countries of the continent. The report notably concluded with the progress regarding transparency in Tunisia or in Kenya for instance but voiced concerns on restrictions upon citizens’ rights to protest in Cameroun and in Ethiopia. This version is open to comments for two months and a definitive version will be published in June 2017.
On 20 April, in the framework of its national awareness-raising campaign, lthe High Authority for good governance (HABG) met with public officials of the district of Korhogo to present its missions in the fight against corruption and assimilated infractions. Public officials’ adhesion to aims and strategies in the field in regions and districts is seen as essential for the HABG to ensure a complete implementation of the Ivorian anticorruption strategy. The session on 21 April allowed ti raise awareness among other targets: youngsters, community chiefs, women, representatives of non-governmental organizations, etc.
On 30 March, National treasury cabinet Secretary announced that kenyan authorities had recovered more than 29 million dollars embezzled dans des affaires de corruption. An important part results from the « Chickengate », a scandal deriving from prosecution in London of two directors of a printing company that bribed Kenyan civil servants in order to obtain ballot papers printing contracts under the code name “chicken”. In March, the new President of the Ethics and anticorruption commission estimated that Kenya has lost 6 billion dollars each year because of corruption. The authorities thus think that these 29 million dollar constitute an essential first step.
On 13 April, members of the Togolese High Authority for the fight against corruption submitted their declaration of assets to the Supreme Court President. This new institution will be tasked with detecting and preventing corruption.
Middle East and North Africa
On 6 April, the President of the National Instance for the fight against corruption (INLUCC) expressed his concerns regarding the bill on the constitutional agency for good governance and the fight against corruption. He believes its prerogatives and independence are limited. Moreover, he thinks that examination of this bill before the draft framework law on all constitutional agencies is not acceptable.
On 17 April, I Watch, a civil society organization in the field of the fight against corruption diffused a video of a meeting during which the head of the Nessma television channel asked his collaborators to tarnish the reputation of the organization systematically. The public prosecutor’s office, upon demand of the Ministry of Justice, opened an investigation on 18 April. The Financial Judiciary Department asked the civil society organization to testify in the framework of a corruption affair opened against this channel.
On 19 April, 28 civil society organizations signed the civil alliance against corruption Charter, an initiative that was launched by the National Instance for the fight against corruption. The objective is to join forces to contribute to a better implementation of the national anticorruption strategy.
On 15 April, Habib al Adly, former Interior Minister of Hosny Moubarak, was condemned to a seven-year imprisonment sentence for corruption, for embezzling more than 2 billion pounds (about 104 million euros) when he was Minister. Two other defendants got a seven-year imprisonment sentence; six others six year and two were condemned to a three-year jail sentence.
On 20 April, the Canadian Government the opening of a hotline and an online form for all citizens to denounce anonymously fraud situations in the framework of federal public procurement or real estate contract procedures. One year ago, Justin Trudeau’s Government promised to double expenses in infrastructures. The antifraud hotline results from this commitment and is based upon the partnership between the Competition Bureau, Public services and Supply Canada and the royal Canadian Mounted Police that use their resources to implement these new disposals. No reward is foreseen for whistleblowers but the Competition Bureau expects many alerts.
On 21 April, the federal Commission on conflicts of interests and ethics, Ms. Mary Dawson, concluded that former Minister Vic Toews was in a situation of conflicts of interests shortly after leaving his public functions by counselling a society with which he was in contact when he was a Minister. In her report, she recalled that “the Act prohibits former public office holders from acting for or on behalf of any person or organization in connection with a proceeding, transaction, negotiation or case to which the Crown is a party and with respect to which the former public office holder had acted for, or provided advice to, the Crown.” The Commissioner has no sanction power over Vic Toews, who is now a federal judge. Nonetheless, upon reception of a citizen’s complaint, the Canadian Judicial Council opened an investigation into the allegations of conflicts of interests.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
On 7 April, US Treasury Secretary, Steven Mnuchin, apologized after promoting “Lego Batman” movie, a movie produced through one of his societies. A democrat Senator had asked the Office for Government Ethics to look into the matter. Steven Mnuchin sent a letter to the Office recognizing he had used terms that may be interpreted as a promotion of one of his products. He promised to follow a training on ethics.
At the beginning of April, the White House started to publish a part of the financial disclosure statements of the Trump administration. Some nominations raise concerns about potential conflicts of interests, or even violations of ethics rules. Beyond the cases that are identified, the experts and journalists are concerned about the vulnerability of this administration after President Obama’s measure preventing lobbyists to join agencies they had lobbied in the past two years was removed.
On 15 April, thousands of people protested in several American cities to call on President Trump to publish his tax returns, as his predecessors did before him. This tradition aims at identifying potential conflicts of interests. The law only forces to publish a financial declaration giving an idea of assets, debts and incomes. Moreover, on 17 April, the White House Press Secretary, Sean Spicer, announced that President Trump’s tax returns for 2016 are currently being controlled and would not be made public. He also took this opportunity to defend the removal announced on 14 April of a measure of the Obama administration that allowed to make public White House visitors logs.
On Monday 17 April, the American Justice approved the condemnation of the giant of the building sector Odebrecht to a 2,6 billion dollars fine that had been pronounced in December 2016 in a corruption scandal over 3 continents.
On 28 March, a mexican judge launched an arrest warrant against a former State governor, Cesar Duarte, from the revolutionary institutional party (PRI) of the President Pena Nieto, over suspicions of embezzlement. Last year already, the PRI had examined the possibility to take disciplinary action against Cesar Duarte accusations of fraud and corruption from the opposition. Fleeing abroad, he was arrested in Guatemala on 15 April.
On Tuesday 4 April, Cristina Kirchner was charged for the third time since November 2016 for illicit association and money laundering in the framework of activities of a familial real estate society. She no longer has immunity since she left power in 2015. She will soon face her first trial for irregularities in the Central Bank sales of dollars on the futures markets, a little before President Macri’s election. She would become ineligible only in case of detention or condemnation by 24 June 2017, date of closing of candidacies to the legislative elections.
On 30 March, Eduardo Cunha, former speaker of the lower house of the Brazilian Congress who had led maneuvers for Dilma Rousseff’s impeachment, was condemned for corruption, money laundering and illegal evasion of currencies. The judge, Sergio Moro, a severe sanction of 15 years and 4 months in jail, in the framework of the « Operation Car Wash ». He could beneficiate from a sanction reduction by collaborating with Justice.
On 11 April, le Federal Supreme Court, only court able to investigate on elected officials with an immunity, announced the opening of an inquiry for at least 8 current ministers in the country and dozens of members of the Congress. They are suspected to be involved in the vast corruption scandal following revelations of managers of Odebrecht. This company would have paid 3,3 billion dollars in bribes between 2005 and 2014. President Temer cannot be subject to such procedures (or only for crimes committed as a President), but he stills faces allegations of illegal financing of his campaign.
Over three years, since March 2014, the operation « Car Wash » has become an immense State scandal with multiple charges for passive and active corruption, money laundering, criminal association or financial delinquency among others. More than 1 300-year imprisonment sentences have been required. 130 condemnations in first instance have been pronounced. Millions of dollars have been recovered.
On 10 April, Transparency international published the results of an investigation on the real estate market of Sao Paulo in Brazil. Real estate investments represent an important vector of money laundering and under the guise of secret companies, in order to make unknown the ultimate beneficiary or owner. The report revealed that in the Brazilian capital, it has been rather easy to dissimulate the identity of real estate owners, for more than 2,7 billion dollars, behind shell companies. The civil society organization calls on Brazil to legislate on beneficial ownership and to open access to land register data.
One year after the publication of millions of documents, and as Transparency international had just published a column on the impact of the affair highlighting the importance of combining whistleblowing, big data and collaborative journalism, the investigation led by the International consortium of investigative journalists was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for explanatory journalism.
The investigations led by 109 redactions over 76 countries, coordinated by the International consortium of investigative journalists (ICIJ), were based on new information on the opacity of offshore finance and tax heaven, contained in the 11,5 million files from the archives of the Panama Mossack-Fonseca offices. The « Panama papers » allowed to reaveal that thousands of anonymous persons but also heads of states, professional sportsmen or celebrities had used complex financial schemes to dissimulate their assets.
On 3 April, the Independent Commission against corruption (ICAC) of Hong Kong announced the arrest of 72 personnes suspected of electoral fraud during the legislative elections of September 2016, where a part of the members of the Parliament is not directly elected but elected by peers. Irregularities have been witnessed and some electors would have received up to 1 000 dollars.
On 11 April, an anticorruption investigator faced an acid attack for investigating a case of bribes involving top public officials and embezzlement of some 160 million euros of public funds. Former Chief of the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) explained that it was not an isolated case and there has been numerous attempts to intimidate anticorruption investigators. Corruption remains widespread in the country.
PEOPLE’S REPUBLIC OF CHINA
On 10 April, the Disciplinary sanction central commission opened an inquiry on Xiang Junbo, Chairman of the China Insurance Regulatory Commission, who is suspected of corruption. In 2014, his name already appeared in a scandal of recruitment of relatives of high-ranking Chinese officials by the American banking company JP Morgan, against contracts with Chinese public enterprises. The New York Times asserted that Mr. Xiang had contacted the American bank for the recruitment of a friend.
REPUBLIC OF KOREA
On the night from 30 to 31 March, the ex-President of the Republic of Korea, Park Geun-hye, was arrested in the framework of an important scandal of corruption centered upon her confident, Ms. Choi, which led to her impeachment in December 2016. On 30 March, the hearing ended on the emission of an arrest warrant against her for corruption, abuse of power and disclosure of State secretes. She was formally charged on 17 April. Beyond the accusations of collusion with her friend Choi Soon-sil, of corruption, abuse of power and disclosure of secrets to obtain 77,4 billion wons in donations to two foundations, Mir et KSports, she is also accused of asking Groups Lotte and SK for bribes. The Chairman of the Lotte group, fifth Korean conglomerate, Shin Dong-bin, was charged for donating 7 billion dollars the foundation KSports. The Chairman of the SK group avoided charges because he did not give the 9 billion wons asked.
On 7 April, a Court in Zagreb sentenced in first instance the former Prime Minister of Croatia, Ivo Sanader, for accepting 2 million euro bribes, in the framework of the acquisition by the Ministry of Rural development of a building at a price that was twice its market value. He was condemned to reimburse the amount of 2,3 million euros and to four years in jail. He appealed against the first judgement. He was already condemned in two other cases that must be judged again.
On 5 April, Transparency international published an article on good practices in the field of transparency of public procurement in Lithuania. The City of Vilnius and TI-Lituhania worked together to open procedures and monitoring of public expenses to citizens, notably with the framework of public works for urban renewal of the Neris banks. The monitoring of this project is part of a wider program of promotion of clean procurement, coordinated by Transparency international, and that covers 17 projects for about 1 billion euros across 11 countries of the EU.
The Deputy Minister of Economy was detained by the anticorruption prosecutors and the National Anti-corruption Center (NAC) officers for suspicions of abuse of power. The Deputy Minister is suspected of purchasing real estate from the JSC Moldtelecom, the founder of which is the Ministry of Economy, renting it out under lease agreement to an electric energy supplier (JSC FEE-Nord) and requesting repairs to the real estate approximating 188 700 euros. If found guilty, he will have to pay a fine or serve between 2 and 5 years jail time, while, in both cases, being deprived of the right to hold certain positions and practice certain activities for a period from 5 to 10 years. The Deputy Minister was subsequently relieved of his position. Four more persons were arrested during the investigations, among which the Vice Minister’s councilor and the director of JSC FEE-Nord
On 11 April, NAC officers and anticorruption prosecutors detained 19 persons, including 3 mayors, 6 high school directors and 9 employees from the private sector. They are suspected of having organized fraudulent tenders within the framework of several investment projects, with the aim to favor certain economic agents and redirecting financial assets, valued over 28 000 000 MDL (approximately 1 327 000 euros), initially allocated to strengthen the efficiency of energy consumption. Following investigations, 12 inquiries passive corruption, influence peddling, exceeding office prerogatives and abuse of power have been opened.
On 26 March, thousands of people gathered in Moscow and several cities of the country to protest against corruption following the opponent Alexeï Navalny’s call. This call followed the publication by this opponent of an investigation on Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev’s property assets. Mr. Navalny and 500 to 700 other persons were arrested after the protests for « public disorder ». These interpellations resulted in a reaction of the European institutions, notably the the spokesperson of the European External Action Service who call upon the Russian federation to honour its international commitments in the field of fundamental rights and freedoms of citizens, on 27 March, and the European Parliament that adopted a resolution in plenary session on 6 April, calling for Mr. Navalny’s liberation and for the the respect of Human rights and the Rule of Law.
On 18 April, two high school students inspired by protests in Roumania launched a call to protest against corruption in Slovakia. Some 5 000 people gathered in the streets of Bratislava. The main target was the Interior Minister who refuses to resign despite links with a land developer who is subject to investigations for fiscal fraud. He should not resign after all, but citizens expect new anticorruption measures, in a country where the phenomena remains widespread.
On 18 April, a spoksperson of the Spanish National Court, specialised in political and financial or terrorist affairs, announced that Mariano Rajoy, head of the Government in Spain, will be called as a witness in the Gürtel case, a vast corruption network in which several leaders of the conservative party are involved. These leaders are suspected from paying bribes and giving gifts to civil servants and elected officials in order to get public procurements. In this case, the first sentences were pro on 10 February, with 11 out of 13 defendants found guilty of corruption and condemned to 3 to 13-year jail sentences.
On 19 April, a new corruption scandal hit the popular party of Mariano Rajoy. The former President of the region of Madrid, Ignacio Gonzalez, was arrested for illicit enrichment in the management of Madrid Water public enterprise.
An Investigation of Franceinfo, made public on 3 April, got back on measures implemented to ensure transparency in public life in Sweden. A member of the Parliament, who long was a mayor, recalled that journalists and citizens might access all websites that he consulted and the list of persons he contacted, and even the texts he sent. The administration has no right to refuse such citizens’ requests. This member of the Parliament recognized that this helps to keep a certain ethics. The article also got back on the cases of Ministers who had to resign after non-payment of a fee, non-declaration of a nurse or for driving with a 0.2g blood alcohol level.
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