2016 rocked by cor­rup­tion scan­dals

Kuwait Times - - ANALYSIS -

From the Panama Pa­pers to the im­peach­ments of the pres­i­dents of Brazil and South Korea, 2016 was a year marked by cor­rup­tion scan­dals, and by ris­ing pub­lic out­rage over graft. The ques­tion is, will that trans­late into a last­ing de­mand for cleaner pol­i­tics? “A new phe­nom­e­non” is be­ing seen, said Jose Ugaz, a renowned Peru­vian lawyer and the chair­man of Trans­parency In­ter­na­tional, a Ber­lin­based anti-cor­rup­tion watch­dog, who ex­pressed cautious op­ti­mism.

“What we are fac­ing to­day is very dif­fer­ent to what we were fac­ing 27 years ago,” when Trans­parency In­ter­na­tional was founded, he told AFP. “Around the world we are see­ing this kind of cor­rup­tion that af­fects the peo­ple - and we are see­ing a mo­bi­liza­tion of the peo­ple against it,” he said. “I think it has been a dif­fi­cult year - but at the same time it gives hope for the fu­ture.” The Panama Pa­pers leak in April - an un­prece­dented data dump - trig­gered much of the out­rage early in 2016. Off­shore com­pa­nies used by many of the world’s fa­mous, wealthy or pow­er­ful, or kin or aides close to them, were ex­posed. Among them were the lead­ers, or rel­a­tives of the lead­ers, of Saudi Ara­bia, China, Malaysia, Syria, Pak­istan, Ar­gentina and Ukraine. Also im­pli­cated was a close friend of Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin, as well as cur­rent or for­mer gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials in Europe, Africa, Asia and the Mid­dle East more than 140 politi­cians and pub­lic of­fi­cials in all.

The rev­e­la­tions forced Ice­land’s prime min­is­ter to re­sign and em­bar­rassed Bri­tain’s then-prime min­is­ter David Cameron. China, al­though in the midst of an anti-cor­rup­tion drive that has net­ted more than a mil­lion of­fi­cials, sup­pressed the Panama Pa­pers in­for­ma­tion re­lat­ing to Xi’s fam­ily in do­mes­tic me­dia and on­line fo­rums. That bol­stered sus­pi­cions among ob­servers that rel­a­tives of the Com­mu­nist Party elite re­mained un­touch­able in the crack­down on graft. “There is a dou­ble stan­dard,” said Willy Lam, pro­fes­sor of pol­i­tics at the Chi­nese Univer­sity of Hong Kong.

’Power of trans­parency’

“The pub­li­ca­tion of the Panama Pa­pers re­minds us of the rapid expansion and power of trans­parency,” the head of the World Bank, Jim Yong Kim, told a Lon­don anti-cor­rup­tion sum­mit in May. He urged more trans­parency, stress­ing that “cor­rup­tion is, quite sim­ply, steal­ing from the poor.” Ac­cord­ing to a re­cent es­ti­mate, be­tween $1.5 tril­lion and $2 tril­lion is paid an­nu­ally in bribes around the world. Re­search also sug­gests that, if a coun­try’s lead­ers are be­lieved to be cor­rupt, or­di­nary cit­i­zens trend to­ward that path too.

Some heads of state have cer­tainly paid a price for per­ceived cor­rup­tion in of­fice. In Brazil, pres­i­dent Dilma Rouss­eff was impeached in Au­gust, just days af­ter the Rio Olympics, fol­low­ing big street protests fu­eled by the coun­try’s deep re­ces­sion. Much of the out­rage stemmed from a huge bribery-and-kick­backs scan­dal in­volv­ing the state oil com­pany Petro­bras. Rouss­eff was not impeached on the Petro­bras al­le­ga­tions but rather on un­re­lated charges of cook­ing the gov­ern­ment books. But the Petro­bras af­fair is wreak­ing havoc for her un­pop­u­lar suc­ces­sor, Michel Te­mer. He has lost sev­eral min­is­ters af­ter they came un­der sus­pi­cion in the scan­dal and ques­tions are emerg­ing about whether he will be able to see through his term.

Mass protests

Im­peach­ment also hit South Korea’s Pres­i­dent Park Ge­un­hye this month. She faces a par­lia­men­tary in­quiry into ac­cu­sa­tions of col­lud­ing with a long­time friend, Choi Soon-Sil, to stron­garm do­na­tions from large com­pa­nies worth tens of mil­lions of dol­lars for a cou­ple of du­bi­ous foun­da­tions that Choi con­trolled and al­legedly plun­dered. The scan­dal ig­nited weekly mass demon­stra­tions, some of which drew crowds of more than a mil­lion peo­ple.

Other lead­ers, though, are bat­ting away graft al­le­ga­tions that pil­ing up against them. One such of­fi­cial is Malaysian Prime Min­is­ter Na­jib Razak, whom the US al­leges em­bez­zled with his fam­ily and as­so­ci­ates bil­lions of dol­lars from a sovereign wealth fund. Na­jib has shut down do­mes­tic in­ves­ti­ga­tions into the scan­dal, claim­ing a plot by en­e­mies. But tens of thou­sands of protestors have held demon­stra­tions de­mand­ing his res­ig­na­tion.

South Africa’s Ja­cob Zuma, nick­named the “Te­flon pres­i­dent” for his sur­vival of mul­ti­ple scan­dals, is also seek­ing to see his man­date through to 2019 with the back­ing of his ANC party, de­spite a court rul­ing he should face 783 counts of cor­rup­tion. An of­fi­cial re­port has also im­pli­cated him in graft al­le­ga­tions in­volv­ing a wealthy In­dian fam­ily.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Kuwait

© PressReader. All rights reserved.