Kleptocracy ‘not a domestic problem’: corruption’s devastating consequences


Massive protests in Venezuela, Tunisia, Brazil, Morocco, and the Dominican Republic [and Slovakia, left] over the last few weeks have highlighted political graft around the globe, and the ensuing instability and violence that can result, according to Charles Davidson, the director of the Hudson Institute’s Kleptocracy Initiative, and Kate Bateman, a visiting fellow at the Center for a New American Security, and a Council on Foreign Relations International Affairs Fellow.

“Systemic corruption and kleptocracy in other countries are not merely inconveniences or added costs to doing business,” they write for The Hill. “Rather, corruption undermines U.S. national security, and the United States should use all its available tools to combat and deter corrupt actors.”

Montenegro’s Milo Djukanovic, for example, has been described by the Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) as “one of the world’s worst caretakers of government” and the OCCRP even named him the “2015 Man of the Year in Organized Crime” for his work in building “one of the most dedicated kleptocracies and organized crime havens in the world,” notes one observer.

Prosecute kleptocrats

“The right way to look at grand corruption or kleptocracy is to recognize that in countries ruled by kleptocrats, corruption is not aberrant behavior: it is the primary reason people seek power, and the government is run as an organized enterprise designed to criminally enrich the leaders and their associates rather than to serve its citizens,” says Mark L. Wolf (right), the Chair of Integrity Initiatives International,* a Senior United States District Judge and the former Chief Judge of the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts.

“We know what to do with criminals: we investigate, prosecute and punish them, and that’s what we should be doing with kleptocrats,” he tells Melissa Aten of the International Forum for Democratic Studies.

A vocal proponent of the establishment of an International Anti-Corruption Court (IACC) to prosecute kleptocratic leaders, Wolf sayscivil society’s role of creating momentum and pressure is essential to the creation of an IACC”:

Prosecuting crimes associated with transnational kleptocracy is inherently problematic. In addition to the difficulty of unpacking complex financial flows and uncovering actionable evidence for use in legal proceedings against kleptocratic elites, national judicial systems that might hold kleptocrats accountable are typically co-opted or otherwise neutered. Trying these cases in international jurisdictions is possible but often ineffective, because this requires cooperation from domestic institutions that have been rendered powerless by these same kleptocratic elites.

Several anti-corruption activists’ efforts will be recognized by the Washington DC-based National Endowment for Democracy (NED) this week. The five award recipients are Malaysian anti-corruption activist Cynthia Gabriel; Khalil Parsa (Afghanistan), Rafael Marques de Morais (Angola), Claudia Escobar (Guatemala) and Denys Bihus (Ukraine).

*Wolf, Justice Richard Goldstone, and other colleagues created Integrity Initiatives International, an NGO designed to advocate for the creation of the IACC and other measures, including forging a network of young people dedicated to combating corruption around the world. RTWT

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