No impunity: the power of accountability
Corruption is widespread because the corrupt continue to get away with it. If there was no impunity there would be less corruption. Transparency International and its chapters around the world will continue to work so that the corrupt do not use their positions of power either in politics, in the courts, in business or behind the scenes to escape justice.
– José Ugaz, Chair, Transparency International
Unmask the Corrupt is Transparency International’s ongoing campaign to find and punish the corrupt. The corrupt hide their money in anonymous shell companies, so we lobbied governments to mandate public registries of the owners of all companies. This is now happening in the EU.
And to stop the corrupt enjoying the proceeds of their ill-gotten gains, we called for greater use of travel bans and for those who sell luxury goods – from property to jewellery – to find out if the money used to buy them was earned legally.
Despite serious allegations of corruption linked to organised crime and four legal actions against him, Carlo Ramos Heredia, Peru’s attorney general, had refused to leave his post. Transparency International’s chapter in Peru, Proética, said it would not be part of the High Level Anti-Corruption Commission unless Ramos Heredia stepped down. That combined with pressure from Transparency International Chair José Ugaz brought the announcement after Christmas that Ramos Heredia was suspended.
Cecilia Blondet, Executive Director of Proética, said: "The Prosecutor’s Office is a fundamental part of the justice system and cannot be under the authority of a person being investigated for ties to organised crime. This is even more relevant when the office is in the process of investigating and punishing these cases of corruption.”
Unrelenting pressure on those who act corruptly with impunity will become a hallmark of Transparency International’s advocacy in the years ahead.
For example we recently sent a letter to the President of Bolivia asking that his country not provide asylum to Martin Belaunde, a Peruvian citizen and former advisor of the current Peruvian president. Belaunde is under investigation for links with organised crime and several cases of corruption. Belaunde alleges he is the victim of political persecution in Peru.
Transparency International Slovakia, working with a local newspaper, uncovered illegal catering tenders at four publicly run hospitals. Collusion in bidding and awarding was costing the government US$25 million more than it should. Stories in the media following the disclosure brought people to the streets and forced several government officials to resign. Read the full story here.
Transparency International Slovakia will keep up the pressure on the government to cancel the contracts and bring all those involved to justice.
Sending the wrong signal
Political expediency should not stand in the way of corruption investigations. In 2014 two cases stood out:
- the acquittal on corruption charges against former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak
“This is a reversal of one of the most important outcomes of the Arab Spring: leaders being held to account for betraying the trust of their citizens. The acquittal of Mubarak and his sons of corruption charges sends a message that leaders can get away with decades of running a country while coffers are stripped bare,” said Transparency International’s Chair José Ugaz.
- and the dropping of charges against Mohammed Abacha, son of the late president of Nigeria, General Sani Abacha
"Allowing the theft of public funds to go unpunished sends the wrong message that those with powerful connections can act with impunity. The case should have been fully prosecuted and the government has not given adequate reasons for dropping the charges,” said Chantal Uwimana, Regional Director for Sub-Saharan Africa at Transparency International.
In 2015 our focus will turn to expose and stop high-level officials, be it a president, a minister or a corporate CEO, that systematically steal hundreds of millions of dollars from the people. Grand corruption needs special attention in comparison to other forms of corruption cases because it causes damage by slowing development and decreasing money needed to finance public services, such as health and education.
Prosecutors often fail to prosecute grand corruption because the cases involve high-level officials of governments who are still in power or have influence over those in power and thus can influence prosecutors and judges in their favour. Sometimes those in power may have “legalised” their corruption or enjoy immunity as public officials, while enforcement authorities lack evidence, jurisdiction or resources to pursue prosecutions.
Transparency International will highlight the need for justice and accountability in certain grand corruption cases, and will step up advocacy that focuses on the need for systemic reforms concerning grand corruption.