The people of Madagascar recently came to realise that the price they pay to get a passport – almost a month’s wages – may very well be criminally inflated.
Leaked documents seen by investigative journalists reportedly show that Semlex – a Belgian company that produces passports for the island nation – had paid at least US$140,000 in unexplained fees to a former Malagasy top official who contracted them. This a huge sum in a country where three-quarters of the population live on less than US$2 a day.
On the heels of these revelations, Transparency International Madagascar is demanding urgent and impartial investigations from local authorities.
If proven, what Semlex did would qualify as foreign bribery. In fact, the company has been previously exposed to have used this exact playbook in other African countries too and is being investigated by the authorities in Belgium.
That’s precisely what our new report, Exporting Corruption, reveals: how well – or poorly – leading economies and exporters including Belgium enforce against foreign bribery in line with their international commitments.
The results are of great concern. Nearly half of world exports come from countries that fail to punish foreign bribery. This includes half of all G20 countries and eight of the top 15 global exporters. Even more concerning, the number of countries actively enforcing has dropped since we published our last survey in 2018. One of the major obstacles to enforcement against foreign bribery is the extensive use of shell companies that help cover up payments, making it more difficult for authorities to trace the origin and destination of the money.
But even when countries actively enforce against foreign bribery, victims’ compensation is rare and most proceeds of corruption are never returned to countries or citizens.
Foreign bribery has consequences. People in countries where multinationals bribe public officials often end up paying higher prices than they otherwise would for possibly lower-quality goods and services. Public money wasted on unnecessary contracts and deals deprives citizens of essential services like education and healthcare. This can be a matter of life and death, especially during a pandemic.
The way business is done needs to change. Read more on how we recommend to do this below.
Our new report, Exporting Corruption, rates the performance of 47 leading global exporters, including 43 countries that are signatories to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Anti-Bribery Convention, in cracking down on foreign bribery by companies operating abroad. Four leading non-OECD Convention exporters are also covered, including China, Hong Kong SAR, India and Singapore.
Airbus, Odebrecht, INASSA, Semlex and Skoda – we look back at some of the most recent cases of foreign bribery that expose the extent of corporate corruption and highlight the long way many governments still have to go to address bribery in foreign markets.
As our Exporting Corruption report shows, shell companies make fighting foreign bribery a Sisyphean task. The Financial Action Task Force and its members have an opportunity to change that by reforming the global standard on beneficial ownership transparency.
Spain is the only country that has advanced two levels – from ‘little or no’ enforcement to ‘moderate’ enforcement – in the new Exporting Corruption report. Transparency International Spain explains this is largely thanks to the new beneficial ownership register and significant judgements rendered in response to recent cases.
The government of Cyprus has announced it will abolish its controversial citizenship-by-investment scheme next month. The decision follows multiple scandals and controversies, the most recent of which appear in a covertly filmed documentary by Al Jazeera that implicates high-level politicians in corruption related to the scheme.
The EU’s next seven-year budget – the ‘MFF’ – and COVID-19 recovery funds are at risk of abuse unless open, data-driven and participatory oversight mechanisms to protect public contracts are put in place, said 27 civil society organisations in a joint address to EU leaders ahead of an important European Council meeting this week.
Ahead of this week’s G20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors meeting, together with CIVICUS and Amnesty International, we called on the group to take concrete steps towards a just post-COVID-19 recovery through ensuring transparent and sustainable international assistance as well as empowering civil society watchdogs to protect relief funds.