Corruption in America, South Asia

When Barack Obama was elected president, Governor Blagojevich of Illinois saw opportunity in the vacancy created in the U.S. Senate. "I've got this thing and it's f------ golden, and uh, uh, I'm just not giving it up for f------ nothing," he allegedly said, according to U.S. Atty. Patrick Fitzgerald of Chicago. Fitzgerald has the governor's recorded conversations demanding $500,000 to a million dollars to sell the senate seat.

How ironic! The governor of a major American state that is sending its senator to the White House as president got charged with massive corruption on Dec 9, 2008, the day designated as International Anti-Corruption Day by the United Nations.

This latest corruption scandal in the United States confirms that corruption exists in all parts of the world to varying degrees, including the industrialized world. However, this report also illustrates that, unlike Pakistan and many other less developed countries, there is greater accountability in the West for the people in power. Official corruption is almost universal but the extent of corruption and the strength of anti-corruption enforcement measures vary widely. It is not the constitution or the laws on the books that make a difference; it's the independence of the career civil servants and the judiciary that differentiates the US system from what is observed in Pakistan and other developing nations. The US attorneys, for example, pursue investigations and prosecutions independently of the politicians who appoint them. The judges are appointed for life and they do not take dictation from politicians and their appointees either.

At the time of the recent India-US nuclear deal approval, members of India's parliament, including convicts released on parole, were offered all kinds of incentives to vote in a certain way. Both the government and the opposition tried desperately to entice them with promises of largess, influence and plum jobs in return for their vote. The BJP opposition, however, could not match the resources of the governing Congress party and the deal was approved.

There have been significant bribery allegations involving Indian politicians and officials and corporations such as Bofors, Enron and Xerox. The Swedish firm Bofors AB allegedly paid Rs.640 million ($13 million) in bribes to middlemen to get the contracts for the deal signed in 1986. Nearly a decade later, Enron India spent US$ 20 million in "educating" Indian bureaucrats about the role of private companies in power generation, an euphemism for bribes. Two telecommunications companies, Essar and Swisscom, were alleged to have paid a former minister, Sukh Ram, a hefty amount during early 1996 to help change the original license conditions, which it had signed with the Department of Telecommunications. Except Bofors, none have been prosecuted to any extent. Meanwhile, India's spending on defense procurement and infrastructure spending involving foreign companies has increased several fold without much scrutiny of how the deals are made.

Not only is there lack of accountability in the developing nations, it seems that corrupt politicians such as Pakistan's President Zardari, widely known as Mr. Ten Percent, get rewarded with high offices by the illiterate electorate living in a feudal society, with the assistance of amnesties arranged by the United States. It is what President Bush often describes as "soft bigotry of low expectations" when the West pushes for the pardon of corrupt politicians in countries such as Pakistan, in clear violation of the UN Conventions against Corruption. What is worse, such policies of condoning corruption are pursued in the name of promoting democracy in the third world.

The behavior of condoning corruption in the third world extends to the private sector as well, with American and European companies routinely engaging in bribery in Africa, Middle East and Asia. For example, Forbes reported last year on Siemens involvement in bribery in the developing world as follows: "The World Bank is looking at an electrical power plant project in Pakistan concluded in the mid-1990s, which was built and later partially maintained by Siemens and financed by the World Bank. The World Bank is concerned that Siemens' costs for the project may have been overpriced.Siemens is currently engulfed in a slush-fund scandal, in which prosecutors allege that managers siphoned off hundreds of millions of euros in company money to obtain foreign contracts.Siemens' own internal investigation uncovered 420 mln euros in suspicious payments going back to 1999 which may have been made to obtain telecommunications equipment contracts in a range of foreign countries. The Bavarian State Prosecutors office has said the sum is estimated in the triple-digit millions of euros." Subsequent to these reports, Daniel Noa, Siemens' top anti-corruption chief, stepped down after only six months at the company, with little explanation given.

There have also been reports from Munich about Siemens pleading guilty to bribing politicians and officials in Nigeria, Russia and Libya. Last month, Siemens said it would take a charge of about 1 billion euros ($1.29 billion) this fiscal year as part of a settlement of bribery investigations by authorities in Germany and the United States.I believe such reports represent only the tip of the iceberg of corruption involving Western multi-nationals and politicians and officials in developing nations.

There are definitely laws on the books in the West such as the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) in the United States. Almost all ethics classes taught in the Western management schools and company training courses cover this topic. However, the question is whether these laws are really enforced and how often are the companies held accountable? Or do they simply rely on the foreign governments to report misbehavior? It would be a fantasy to expect the officials and politicians on the receiving end to report incidents of bribery as they are the main beneficiaries. But I think the German, French, US, British and other governments of developed nations who claim higher moral positions should be cracking down on these reprehensible practices just to enforce their own laws and live up to their own higher standards. While it may be argued and it is like putting the shoe on the wrong foot, I see it as the only hope we have of containing such widespread corruption in developing nations that is robbing their people blind.

Related Links:

Corruption in Pakistan

Transparency International Survey 2007

Is Siemens Guilty?

Zardari Corruption Probe


Anonymous said…
it's a nice blog.... love to read see again. Putri-bali
Riaz Haq said…
#US government fines #Boston firm $4 million for bribing #NHAI officials in #India. The FCPA Blog - The FCPA Blog
Privately held CDM Smith Inc. entered into a declination with disgorgement Thursday with the Justice Department to resolve FCPA offenses in India.

The DOJ said employees and agents of CDM Smith and a wholly owned subsidiary in India paid $1.18 million in bribes to government officials. In return, the company won highway construction supervision and design contracts and a water project contract.

The Boston-based company made profits of $4 million from the tainted contracts.

The enforcement action is the seventh under the FCPA Pilot Program since the DOJ adopted it in April 2016. The program gives companies incentives to self-disclose, cooperate, and remediate FCPA violations.

Companies that qualify can receive a 50 percent discount on fines they might face under the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines.

CDM Smith has about 5,000 employees worldwide. Revenues were $1.2 billion in 2015. It provides engineering and construction services.

The DOJ said the bribery in India occurred from 2011 until 2015.

The illegal payments for the highway contracts were generally 2 percent to 4 percent of the contract price. The bribes were paid through "fraudulent subcontractors who provided no actual services and understood that payments were meant to solely benefit the officials," the DOJ said.

The company also paid $25,000 to local officials in the Indian state of Goa for a water project contract.

"All senior management at CDM India . . . were aware of the bribes . . . and approved or participated in the misconduct," the DOJ said.

CDM Smith agreed to disgorge $4.03 million. It "acknowledged" that it can't take a tax deduction for the disgorged funds.

The DOJ said it closed the investigation under the Pilot Program because CDM Smith disgorged its profits, made a timely voluntary self disclosure, did a comprehensive investigation, gave full cooperation, enhanced its compliance program, and fired all executives and employees involved in the FCPA offenses.

The declination with disgorgement from the DOJ to CDM Smith Inc. is here (pdf).
Riaz Haq said…
Ex #French PM Balladur to stand trial over 'arms deal kickbacks' from #Pakistan. The investigation was launched after 11 French submarine engineers were murdered in #Karachi in a 2002 bomb attack on the bus carrying them. #corruption via @telegraphnews

ormer French prime minister Edouard Balladur is to stand trial at a special court over charges that kickbacks from the sale of submarines to Pakistan helped finance his 1995 presidential election campaign.

The trial comes over years of investigations into the "Karachi Affair", a series of nebulous dealings by middlemen involving possible "retro-commissions" linked to the sale of Agosta class submarines by the French government to Pakistan in the 1990s.

The investigation was launched after 11 French submarine engineers were murdered in Karachi in a 2002 bomb attack on the bus transporting them. It was initially blamed on al-Qaeda terrorists, but investigating judges also looked into whether the blast was to punish France for failing to pay part of €80 million (£71m) in sweeteners to senior Pakistani officials.

When Jacques Chirac beat Mr Balladur, now 90, to become French president in 1995, it is alleged that he punished his one-time ally for running against him by halting the remaining payments to Pakistani middlemen.

Ex-president Nicolas Sarkozy, who was budget minister and spokesman for Mr Balladur's presidential campaign at the time, has previously angrily rejected media speculation that he might have known of the payments as “grotesque".

Mr Balladur will stand trial before the Court of Justice of the Republic, set up to try cases of current and former ministers. He and his former defence minister, François Léotard, face charges of “complicity in the abuse of public funds” and concealing this alleged crime. They had been under official investigation since 2017.

In all, investigating magistrates believe that Mr Balladur received 13 million francs (around £1.8m) for the sale of submarines to Pakistan but also frigates to Saudi Arabia. Mr Léotard is notably accused of setting up an “opaque circuit” of arms dealers linked to both countries.

Mr Balladur is accused of receiving some 10 million francs of the kickbacks "in cash", said François Molins, the prosecutor general, in a statement.

Both defendants deny any wrongdoing.

François Martineau et Félix de Belloy, Mr Balladur’s lawyer, said his client was “confident in the outcome of this trial in that he never committed any of the acts held against him”.

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