Denial of entry: to catch a bribe taker

Denial of entry: to catch a bribe taker

In October when the United States issued six denials of entry, or visa bans, to Hungarian officials for allegedly “benefiting from or engaging in corruption”, it was using what Transparency International believes is an important tool in the fight against corruption.

If you stop corrupt people from crossing borders you do two things: you shine a spotlight on individuals and you deny them an opportunity to enjoy their ill-gotten gains abroad. You also put pressure on their home countries to start investigations.

The spotlight has become a flashpoint for protest in Hungary where the rule of law has been weakened by an increasingly autocratic state. Citizens’ rights have been sidelined, most recently by a crack-down on civil society organisations that try to hold the government to account.

What caught the interest of the US State Department is the link in Hungary between corruption and the deterioration of the rule of law. The erosion of checks and balances; the appointment of people of questionable professional backgrounds to the Constitutional Court; the reduction of its jurisdiction and judicial power; the fact that laws openly restricting the right to property and free entrepreneurship are not found unconstitutional by the Court."

– Miklós Ligeti, Transparency International Hungary, Legal Director

One of the officials banned from entering the US is the head of the Hungarian Tax and Financial Control Administration (NAV in Hungarian). This government recently tried to implement a tax on internet use, which brought people out on the streets: first to protest the internet tax (which was stopped pending a national consultation) and then to protest against rampant corruption in the country.

Not only is NAV, which would have administered the internet tax, headed by one of the banned officials, the agency itself was recently criticised in a report by the European Union for its failures to detect tax fraud. The report said that in 2012 Hungary lost about 25 per cent of potential sales tax revenues because of fraud.

The acronym NAV has now become synonymous in Hungary with “No American Visa” and was used for punning slogans during the protests.

So far the Hungarian authorities have refused to investigate the six individuals subject to the US visa bans, arguing that the US authorities have not named them. Transparency International Hungary is calling for the Hungarian authorities to immediately start a judicial inquiry into what led to the allegations of corruption by the US.

Transparency International Hungary also recently published a report on lobbying in Hungary which showed how US companies and others are frequently “encouraged” to fund studies and other activities of pro-government think tanks that have nothing to do with their core business, in exchange for potential access to government officials.

Making visa bans work

Transparency International is asking the Group of 20 biggest economies, meeting this week in Brisbane, Australia, to define criteria that countries could use to ban visas for corrupt individuals. This is part of our Unmask the Corrupt campaign whereby we want to ensure the corrupt cannot profit from their illegal activities.

We are calling on:

There needs to be international agreement on the criteria for issuing and publicising visa bans. For example, in the Hungarian case, both the Hungarian government and the US government should have published the list of those people who were banned and why they were banned. Common criteria for issuing bans would help to ensure that bans are based on substantiated evidence and due process, rather than arbitrary or political decisions.

Civil society can work with law enforcement and government officials to develop criteria and appropriate thresholds for denying entry to the corrupt. It should demand information about implementation of denial of entry programmes to ensure their effectiveness and prevent their abuse, and it should publicise lapses in protocol, such as when corrupt officials are issued visas.

Unmask the Corrupt campaign banner

For any press enquiries please contact


Support Transparency International

#18IACC: Call for workshop proposals now open!

The 18th edition of the International Anti-Corruption Conference to take place in Copenhagen from 22-24 October 2018 is thrilled to announce that the call for workshop proposals is now open. Help us shape the #18IACC agenda! Anyone interested in the fight against corruption is welcome to submit a proposal.

A redefining moment for Africa

The newly released Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) provides a good baseline for the African Union (AU) anti-corruption efforts in 2018. This year’s theme for the AU is “Winning the Fight against Corruption: A Sustainable Path to Africa’s Transformation.” As the AU rolls out its plan, this is an important moment for Africa to take stock of the current situation.

Perceptions remain unchanged despite progress in the Americas

In the last few years, Latin America and the Carribbean made great strides in the fight against corruption. Laws and mechanisms exist to curb corruption, while legal investigations are advancing and citizen anti-corruption movements are growing in many countries across the region. However, according to the Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) 2017, the region continues to score poorly for corruption. How can we explain this contradiction?

Slow, Imperfect Progress across Asia Pacific

While no country in the Asia Pacific region scores a perfect 100, not even New Zealand or Singapore, which both experienced their share of scandals in the last year, our analysis reveals little progress across the region.

Europe and Central Asia: more civil engagement needed

In 2017, authoritarianism rose across Eastern and South East Europe, hindering anti-corruption efforts and threatening civil liberties. Across the region, civil society organisations and independent media experienced challenges in their ability to monitor and criticise decision-makers

Rampant Corruption in Arab States

In a region stricken by violent conflicts and dictatorships, corruption remains endemic in the Arab states while assaults on freedom of expression, press freedoms and civil society continue to escalate.

Digging deeper into corruption, violence against journalists and active civil society

To mark the release of the Corruption Perceptions Index 2017, we analysed corruption levels around the world and looked at how they relate to civil liberties – specifically, the ability of citizens to speak out in defence of their interests and the wider public good.

Corruption Perceptions Index 2017

This year’s Corruption Perceptions Index highlights that the majority of countries are making little or no progress in ending corruption, while journalists and activists in corrupt countries risk their lives every day in an effort to speak out.

Social Media

Follow us on Social Media

Would you like to know more?

Sign up to stay informed about corruption news and our work around the world