Selective leaks and spills
The week in corruption, 21 August 2020
Photo by K.Chuansakul on Shutterstock
From the suspected poisoning of the prominent politician and anti-corruption activist Alexey Navalny in Russia, to criminal investigation threats against opposition politicians in Belarus, it has been a truly trying week.
This week we also became concerned about the apparent lack of integrity and transparency in the Beirut explosion investigation in Lebanon, where constant leaking of information threatens to undermine the inquiry’s legitimacy.
Transparency International, along with the Lebanese Transparency Association, is concerned about the inquiry being conducted into the Beirut explosion by an “exceptional court”. The highly damaging impact of the Beirut explosion means that privacy rights should only override the public interest in exceptional cases.
Another big leak takes us to Mexico, where three former presidents and over a dozen high-level public officials have been implicated in what has become the country’s largest corruption case.
The allegations come from the leaked deposition of Emilio Lozoya – the former head of Mexico’s state-owned oil company Pemex – who was on the run in Spain until very recently.
Emilio Lozoya Austin was accused by Odebrecht’s Chief Executive in Mexico, Luis Alberto de Meneses Weyll, of having received illegal money. According to Weyll’s plea bargain deal testimony, the company paid US$10 million to Lozoya to be favoured in the US$115 million public bidding for the Miguel Hidalgo Refinery’s earthworks contract and for public contracts in the Salamanca Refinery.
The fresh leak has caused an international stir. Some of the individuals named in the deposition have called the allegations untrue. While the authorities have not confirmed the authenticity of the leaked document, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador was quick to tell the media he does not question its genuineness.
Even before the leak emerged, during Tuesday’s press conference, President showed a viral video of unknown origin that allegedly depicts public servants hollowing out plastic bags of cash. According to López Obrador, the money represents some of the bribes channelled to Mexican public officials through Pemex.
Prior to that, Transparency International Mexico had asked the authorities to ensure greater transparency and adequate openness of the trial, as opposed to sending updates through WhatsApp to the media.
In both Lebanon and Mexico, leaking selective information distorts the work of investigations and threatens their integrity, further undermining public trust.
Instead, these high-profile inquiries need to be conducted with utmost openness and transparency.
Greater transparency and open public communication would limit speculation and ensure trust in high-profile and complex cases.
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