Three courageous individuals are honoured today as the winners of the prestigious Transparency International (TI) Integrity Awards 2009-2010, given to people for outstanding contributions to the fight against corruption.
Sergei Magnitsky’s commitment to integrity ultimately cost him his life. A Moscow-based lawyer, Magnitsky agreed to testify against senior Russian officials, who were accused of using assets to fraudulently reclaim US $230 million in taxes. In November 2008, Magnitsky was imprisoned on charges of conspiracy. Even when his health failed he refused to withdraw his testimony. When medical treatment was allegedly withheld, he died in custody.
“Sergei Magnitsky did what to most people seems impossible: he battled as a lone individual against the power of an entire state. He believed in the rule of law and integrity, and died for his belief. Magnitsky, his heroic fight, and the ideals he stood for must never be forgotten”, said Sion Assidon, Chair of the Integrity Awards Committee.
In 2008,Grégory Ngbwa Mintsa agreed to join TI France and civil society group Sherpa in a lawsuit to investigate how three African leaders were able to acquire luxury properties and goods in France. Despite threats, imprisonment and a freeze on his salary, Mintsa refused to drop the case. On 9 November 2010, a ruling by the criminal chamber of the French Supreme Court (Cour de Cassation) allowed for an investigation to go forward.
”TI welcomes the ruling by the Cour de Cassation. Mintsa’s bravery in joining the case, and continuing to support it despite imprisonment and intimidation, has inspired people around the globe and sets a true precedent for challenging impunity,“ said Assidon.
Better known by his pen name Poddala, Attotage Prema Jayantha, was chosen for his dedication to exposing injustice in Sri Lanka’s health, education and transport sectors over a period of two decades. One of his reports uncovered what some officials have called Sri Lanka’s biggest ever tax scam, involving the alleged misappropriation of RS 3.6 billion (US $37 million) in Value Added Tax.
“Poddala effectively used his pen to fight corruption and promote good governance in Sri Lanka. Despite making powerful enemies, the activist in Poddala did not allow stories to be simply printed and then be forgotten”, said Assidon.
Natalia Nikolaeva Magnitskaya will accept the award on behalf of her son at a ceremony at the 14th International Anti-Corruption Conference. Accepting on behalf of Jayantha will be J.C. Weliamuna, member of the TI Board of Directors and Executive Director of TI Sri Lanka. Mintsa is in Bangkok to accept his award. The ceremony will be open to the press.
Now in its tenth edition, the Integrity Awards were created to recognise the courage and determination of the many individuals and organisations confronting corruption around the world, often at great personal risk. Previous winners include journalists, public prosecutors, government officials and civil society leaders.
The TI Integrity Awards Committee consists of 11 individuals from across the world who have been active in the anti-corruption movement. They select the winners from nominations made for individuals and organisations.
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