Corruption’s War on the Law

“Corruption’s War on the Law” is the headline on an article Project Syndicate just published. There former French magistrate and corruption fighter Eva Joly recounts the fate of those who have dared to confront powerful networks of corrupt officials and those who corrupt them.  Maltese investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia was murdered by accomplices of those she was investigating. So was Rwandan anti-corruption lawyer Gustave Makonene. So too was Brazilian anticorruption activist Marcelo Miguel D’Elia.

After a second attempt on his life, Nuhu Ribadu, first chair of Nigeria’s Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, the country’s premier anticorruption agency, famously remarked:

“When you fight corruption, it fights back.”

In her article, Mme. Joly, who received numerous threats for investigating and ultimately convicting senior French officials for corruption, explains that violence is just one way corruption “fights back.”  The most recent head of Nigeria’s EFCC was arrested and detained on trumped up charges of corruption. Ibrahim Magu has been suspended from office pending further proceedings, proceedings unlikely to be held this century.

At the same, Nigerian anticorruption activist Lanre Suraju is, as this blog reported last week, being charged with “cyberstalking” for circulating documents from a court case that implicate associates of the current Attorney General in a the massive OPL-245 corruption scandal. This form of intimidation, which Nigerians have dubbed “lawfare,” has now been exported to Europe. Italian prosecutors are being subjected to both criminal charges and administrative action for having the nerve to prosecute one of Italy’s largest companies for foreign bribery (here).

President Biden has declared the global fight against corruption to be a national priority, and he will shortly host a democracy summit where Brazil, Italy, Malta, Nigeria, and Rwanda will be represented at the highest level. Might he remind them which side of the fight they should be on?

4 thoughts on “Corruption’s War on the Law

  1. Thanks Richard, very enriching. I would like to add that apart from violence, we have situations where lawfare takes the form of changing the law to enable corruption to continue. Kenyan politicians have always changed the law and stopped the operationalization of specific laws, to enable political corruption to continue. They have stiffled the laws limiting campaign financing, the laws specifying minimum qualifications to vie for political office, and the laws on integrity in public office. I am glad President Biden has prioritized the global fight against corruption. Corruption is not just national as we are a community of nations and what happens in America or Kenya affects all of us.

  2. It will be an interesting blog to have on the ways and means of corruption fighting back. Outright violence could be one, changing laws could another and still more seeking impunity could be other.

  3. In the UK in the cases of Ibori, Gohil and others for money laundering there were sophisticated and co-ordinated attacks on the integrity of investigators. Some allegations were placed into the public arena by making them within UK Parliamentary hearings which provided protection from being sued for libel, and what was said in the hearings could then be quoted and published more widely within all sorts of media (without risk of being sued).
    The manipulated stories gained a momentum with little opportunity for those involved to put another side. Even TI published repetitions of the allegations, believing convicted felons over long serving and effective law enforcement officers!
    Despite the best fightback the corrupt could manage, including numerous high level court challenges (costing millions), the Ibori case remains one of the very few enforcement success stories in the UK.
    Sadly it highlighted the level of fight back in such cases, perhaps a reason there have been so few prosecutions in the UK since.

  4. Pingback: Episode 279 – the Happy Hanukkah Edition | The Compliance Podcast Network

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