Two individuals who declined to subvert rules and abet corruption relating to the Goldenberg scandal have been shortlisted for the Transparency International Integrity Awards 2004. The Goldenberg scandal defrauded Kenyan taxpayers between 1990 and 1993 and is the largest known financial scandal in Kenya's history. The shortlist of eight individuals also includes a Greek sociologist fighting human trafficking, the former head of one of the Tax Inspectorates in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and a German lawyer who uncovered a network of bribery in local government.
Three posthumous candidates have also reached the shortlist for the annual awards, which were established in 2000 to recognise the efforts of individuals who have shown exceptional bravery in taking a stand against corruption. The posthumous candidates are a Turkish electrical engineer murdered as a result of his efforts to root out corruption in the state electricity company, an Indian whistleblower who lost his life after making a complaint about corruption in the road-building project he was overseeing, and a brave Bangladeshi journalist whose frequent reports on crime and corruption in politics led to his death.
The TI Integrity Awards Committee selected the eight shortlisted individuals out of a total of 30 candidates, nominated from every continent. The committee is made up of 11 prominent anti-corruption campaigners from around the word, and includes former TI Integrity Award winner and investigating magistrate in the Elf-Aquitaine oil corruption case in France, Eva Joly. TI is the world's leading non-governmental organisation fighting corruption worldwide.
"Corruption blights poor and rich countries alike and too often we forget the efforts made by individuals on the ground to root out the corrupt," said TI Chairman Peter Eigen today on announcing the shortlisted candidates. "The tide is changing and today we increasingly see that intolerance towards thieving public officials is growing worldwide. This sea-change can be traced back to the bravery and determination of individuals who fight corruption, many of whom have paid for their integrity with their lives."
According to TI Board member and Chair of the TI Integrity Awards Committee Inese Voika, "it is our duty to recognise and give voice to these remarkable people. It is our obligation to show that corruption is surmountable, and to tell their stories. The TI Integrity Awards celebrate the dedication and fearlessness of these individuals."
"From governments that come to power on an anti-corruption platform to public servants who want to exercise impartiality and justice in their job," said Voika, who is also Chair of TI Latvia (Delna). She continued: "Their vision cannot be realised without the determination of the men and women who take individual and collective action to tackle corruption at the source. These people are the greatest allies of leaders who want to improve the lives of all citizens."
A final announcement of the Integrity Awards winners is due to be made on 12 September. The winners will then be recognised at an awards ceremony in October 2004. The fifth annual TI Integrity Awards ceremony will be held in Nairobi, Kenya, at the time of TI's Annual Members' Meeting in October 2004. The shortlisted candidates are:
Hasan Balikçi, a Turkish electrical engineer for the state-owned company, Turkey Electric Distribution A.S. (TEDAS), who was murdered in October 2002. Mr Balikçi was responsible for rooting out those responsible for stealing billions of dollars from this important national utility. However, he paid with his life for his revelations of corruption by businessmen and officials. His death not only led to a huge public outcry and increased awareness about corruption in the energy sector; it also prompted the strengthening of laws regulating corrupt activities in this sector. Balikçi's widow, Sengül Balikçi, believes his death marked a turning point: "Those who planned Hasan's death forgot one thing," she said. "They forgot that this struggle will spread, wave after wave - that there will be many Hasan Balikçis; that our struggle will continue with increasing support."
Dr Milica Bisic from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Professor of Economics at the University of Belgrade and former Head of the Tax Administration in Republika Srpska. Dr Bisic fearlessly took on corruption in the taxation system, a crime that benefited those who operated in a shadow economy but refused to pay their share of taxes. For the first time the process of forcible collection of taxes was applied to large businesses. Many have since been charged with tax evasion and have closed down.
Satyendra Kumar Dubey, former Deputy General Manager of the National Highway Authority in India, who was overseeing a road project worth billions of dollars when he died at the age of 31. He was killed after his name was leaked in connection with a complaint about corruption he had sent to the prime minister's office and the road network authority. His death caused an outcry of condemnation and sympathy in a country where public money is frequently siphoned off from large government projects through corruption and where there is widespread indifference among officials unaccustomed to having to justify their actions publicly. As well as emerging as a focal point for resistance to corruption and dishonesty, Dubey's death has led to renewed demands for laws to protect whistleblowers.
Lothar Hermes, an intrepid German lawyer, uncovered a vast network of kickbacks and underhand dealings in the field of waste disposal and sewage treatment in local government. With the aid of the internet, Hermes mobilised citizens' groups to expose bribes that had been paid to silence opposition. Going beyond his duties as a lawyer, he battled cultural aversion to whistle-blowing and took on vested local interests to illuminate a corrupt system of public/private partnerships that cost taxpayers millions and caused severe environmental damage.
Grigoris Lazos from Greece, a sociologist and criminologist, who has made the fight against human trafficking, and the corruption that breeds it, his vocation. Human trafficking has grown to become one of the most important sources of corruption in Greece, fostered by the collusion and bribery of officials at all levels, and it generates about €960 million annually. Lazos is credited for almost single-handedly putting the issue of human trafficking on the Greek government's agenda and for mobilising civil society around this life-threatening issue. Lazos continues with his work in defiance of death threats, and he remains undaunted by official resistance to recognise the problem.
Manik Chandra Saha, a journalist and social activist in Bangladesh, who frequently reported on crime and political corruption for the New Age newspaper and for the BBC Bengali Service. His resolute determination to expose injustice made him enemies and he received numerous death threats, spending much of the year under police protection, before he was killed in a bomb attack on 15 January 2004. His death brought thousands of mourners out into the streets, and drew condemnation of his murder from Reporters without Borders and the Bangladesh Centre for Development, Journalism and Communication.
David Munyakei and Constable Naftali Lang'at, declined to subvert rules and abet corruption relating to the Goldenberg scandal that defrauded Kenyan taxpayers of billions of Kenyan shillings through alleged exports of gold and diamonds between 1990 and 1993. Munyakei, a former clerk at the Central Bank of Kenya (CBK), blew the whistle on the Goldenberg scandal by providing CBK documents to opposition members of Parliament. These documents revealed illegal transactions by the Central Bank and Goldenberg International. The courage to disclose these corrupt practices resulted in Munyakei's arrest, sacking and possibly the loss of his only parent.
Constable Lang'at was one of the police officers on duty who refused to release a consignment of smuggled gold, which they had seized. The police officer told the commission inquiring into the Goldenberg Affair that upon the impounding of the gold, one of the suspects, Kamlesh Pattni, who turned out to be a director of Goldenberg International, made a telephone call to the then Director of the CID (Criminal Investigations Department). The witness said that Kenya's then chief crime-buster ordered the junior officer to release the seized goods. Constable Lang'at refused to follow these orders as he felt that he would be breaking the rules.
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