TI now wants to name, shame, sue corrupt leaders

TI now wants to name, shame, sue corrupt leaders

Friday, November 14, 2014 7:54 am

Jose Ugaz: new head of Transparency International. Photo: americaeconomia

Jose Ugaz: new head of Transparency International. Photo: americaeconomia

Corrupt leaders, kleptocrats of the world had better read this: Transparency International is revving up its campaign against sleaze and unbridled theft of public money by naming, shaming and suing the leaders suspected to have corruptly enriched themselves.

Transparency has done it successfully before, by instituting via non-governmental organisations and a citizens’ group criminal proceedings in 2007 accusing three African heads of state – Teodoro Obiang of Equatorial Guinea, Omar Bongo of Gabon and Denis Sassou-Nguesso of the Republic of Congo – of embezzling state money to buy properties in France.

Obiang’s son, Teodoro Nguema, had bought a $180 million building in Paris that had 101 rooms, a Turkish bath, two gyms, a movie theatre and a hair salon, and then sold it to the state. The suits argued that such luxury was impossible on a state salary.

The United States in October also settled a civil case for $30 million against the younger Obiang over charges that he looted his impoverished country to buy a Malibu estate, Michael Jackson memorabilia, luxury cars, yachts and a jet.

“We intend to do more Obiang-type cases,” Jose Ugaz the new head of TI said in the interview with Reuters.

Ugaz for now declined to give further details, on which leaders are next to be sued, saying that TI is reviewing evidence in potential cases to ensure that any actions are very well founded.

Uga, a 55 year old Peruvian lawyer,brings an activist bent and prosecutor’s zeal to the job of leading the world’s largest anti-corruption organisation, Reuters said.

“We have been very successful in putting corruption onto the international agenda and creating the tools to address corruption. Now we have to work with people and identify corrupt officials and leaders who are stealing public money and unmask them,” Ugaz said in the interview.

He led the 2000-2002 investigation against former Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori and his head of intelligence Vladimiro Montesinos in grand corruption cases involving more than 1,500 members of Fujimori’s criminal network, and recovered more than $75 million in stolen assets.

He also was a human rights official working in El Salvador, Sri Lanka and Costa Rica.

Elected last month to head TI, Ugaz wants to use his global position to expose grand corruption in many more corners of the world using non-traditional methods, especially where corruption has undermined state functions and the rule of law.

“Very often corruption has impacted the judicial system, the courts, the judges and the police. Where they are not working properly we are investigating cases and will bring social sanctions and publicly expose them,” Ugaz said by telephone from Peru.

“We want to identify them. We want to name them.”

To gather more ideas on how to challenge grand corruption and confront impunity, Ugaz said he and his vice chair, Elena Panfilova from Russia, will embark on a global tour, meeting with the 100 or so chapters in its five regions over the coming year.

His biggest challenge is how to combat corruption that has grown far more complex in the past decade, Ugaz said.

The first generation of TI leaders focused on building the legal infrastructure, pressuring the United Nations to adopt the Anti-Bribery Convention and countries to pass laws against corrupt practices, particularly in the corporate arena.

Today corrupt state actors have gone global, Ugaz said.

They are linked to organised crime, drugs, human trafficking and state-sponsored terrorism; they utilise sophisticated communications technologies, have private armies, trade in weapons and launder money through the international financial system.

“It is new in its dimension and power because of a globalised world and the huge amounts of money involved. Illegal groups are challenging the political stability of countries,” he said.

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