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Tackling grand corruption impunity

Grand corruption is the abuse of high-level power that benefits the few at the expense of the many. It involves high-level officials, is carried out on a large scale, and causes serious and widespread harm. Despite the gravity of the crimes, the power exercised by the perpetrators often enables them to escape accountability. Some of the most infamous cases of grand corruption have featured outright embezzlement of vast amounts of public funds in countries ranging from Nigeria to Peru to the Philippines. The amounts misappropriated were stashed in foreign secrecy jurisdictions and used to consolidate political and economic power.

Grand corruption is an organised crime that separates the state from the people it should serve, causing massive harm. The preamble to the United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC) refers to corruption involving vast quantities of assets that threaten the political stability and sustainable development of those states. By diverting state resources and undermining state functions, grand corruption schemes produce pervasive violations of civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, including the collective rights to self-determination and development.

Based on experience to date, the paper identifies special national and international measures that would increase accountability of grand corruption offenders and improve remedies for the harm they cause. Many of the special measures discussed would be most effective in combination and if anchored in an international legal framework. Some of the measures would also be suitable for international corruption cases that do not rise to the level of grand corruption.