Uzbekistan: How to support the real victims of grand corruption

Uzbekistan: How to support the real victims of grand corruption

What do you do when assets stolen from a country’s state coffers by corrupt individuals have been recovered and can now be returned to the country - but the government is still controlled by corrupt people? That’s the case of Uzbekistan, one of the most corrupt countries in the world. It scores just 21 out of 100 on Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index, indicating rampant corruption in the public sector.

In 2015, the US Department of Justice (DOJ) found that three companies subject to American law had paid bribes of almost US$1 billion to Gulnara Karimova, the daughter of the now deceased Uzbek president Islam Karimov, as a way to enter the Uzbek telecommunications market. Gulnara Karimova deposited the payments in bank accounts in Ireland, Belgium, Luxembourg and Switzerland. Now, the money is frozen pending the resolution of the DOJ cases.

But the question remains: what should be done with the money? The government of Uzbekistan is still run by people connected to Karimov. The money was stolen from the public purse which in theory, if not in practice, belongs to the citizens of Uzbekistan, and it’s these citizens who are the victims of corruption.

In this case, the normal rules of asset recovery - returning the stolen goods to the government of origin - should not apply. If the money is returned to a corrupt government, it could perpetuate the cycle of corruption and human rights abuses.

Something similar to this happened in Kazakhstan from 2014. The solution the governments came up with was to establish an independent foundation to administer the US$115 million of repatriated assets. So instead of sending back stolen Kazakh assets to the government that was implicated in stealing in the first place, the governments of Kazakhstan, Switzerland and the U.S. agreed to the formation of BOTA Foundation.

This independent entity,  whose purpose was to repatriate assets from a corrupt scheme to fund NGOs and programs that help reduce child poverty in Kazakhstan, was subject to monitoring from the U.S., Switzerland, the World Bank and an international NGO.

This precedent could be used in Uzbekistan, however this time we are talking about close to US$1 billion, which complicates things. It is not easy to spend that much money quickly and ethically. Instead, the money could be held in a transparent trust that is accountable to Uzbek civil society actors so that it could be used to support victims and the people of Uzbekistan would know how and what the money was used for. This trust would have to be in place for several years and be run in a transparent and accountable way.

This is a chance for the governments where the frozen assets are currently held to do the right thing with this money and show the people of Uzbekistan that the victims of corruption, ordinary citizens, are the ones who will benefit from the repatriation of illicit wealth.

For any press enquiries please contact press@transparency.org

Latest

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