12 December 2011

The symbiosis between fraudsters and the anti corruption movement was very evident in last week’s news from around the world. Enforcement agencies seem to have been “saving up” high profile cases to capture media attention.

Last Thursday was designated by the United Nations as International Anti Corruption Day, but the week began and ended with events of almost sublime paradox. It started with much of the world’s media fascinated by the story of two Indian peasant farmers letting loose sacks-full of snakes in a tax office. The farmers were responding to extortionate conduct of local officials who were demanding bribes before making land records available. In juxtaposition, the Indian bureaucracy is reported to be syphoning up to 1.26% of the GDP each year, or approximately $18.2 billion.

The week ended with upwards of 100,000 Moscovites demonstrating in ager at the extent of fraud in parliamentary elections. Mid week the findings of an economic study were that between 2000 and 2009 an estimated $500 billion was illicitly transferred out of Russia the economies of only two other countries have last more in this way, to fraud.

In Britain, a lobbying firm was “caught out” boasting of how countries and national leaders with serious integrity problems could use its services to bury bad news stories and influence public opinion. And this week the Police have indicated that up to 800 people had their phones hacked at some stage by reporters from News of the World.

In Australia, the Victorian Government has announced it will get legislation in place by mid 2012 to establish the long awaited Independent Body Against Corruption, with jurisdiction over anyone paid from public money, including politicians, judges and officials. In New South Wales the former deputy of the NSW Crime Commission convicted of corruption has been sentenced to 22 years. And in Queensland, the finance manager for the State’s Health department has gone missing with $16 million of that agency’s assets.

Most prominent of reported events in the United states was the sentencing of former Governor Blagojevich to 14 years imprisonment, with the judge commenting that “the abuse of the office of governor is more damaging than the abuse of any other office, except the president’s.”

But politicians of all colours seem combined in their opposition to giving steam to the STOCK Bill – Stop Trading Congressional Knowledge Act – championed by numerous good-government organisations. The House Committee considering the matter last week was not responsive to a law that would outlaw congressional self-dealing and impose greater transparency on the actions of politicians.

In China the boss of the Beijing Airport, convicted of fraud, has been sentenced to 12 years in prison. In Vietnam,new police regulations prohibit police officers having more than $5 on them, as part of anti bribery measures.

Not to be left out, New Zealand had two high profile cases also, with charges relating to the alleged $1.7 billion fraud on South Canterbury Finance, and a court ordering the fraudster convicted of a $103 million ponzi scheme remain in custody until sentence later this month.

An interesting week!

And that is just picking the high profile reports. All of which supports the need for countries to commit fully to anti corruption convention obligations, and to the Open Government declaration which requires its member states … “to implement the highest standards of professional integrity throughout their administration ….(including) robust anti corruption policies, mechanisms and practice