When you Fight Corruption, it Fights Back

Nuhu Ribadu, first head of Nigeria’s premier anticorruption agency, famously made the observation that headlines this post sometime between the first and second attempt on his life. Speakers at “Anticorruption Prosecutors Under Attack, a side event at the just completed Conference of State Parties to the UN Convention Against Corruption, explained that he is not the only one whose life, career, and reputation have come under attack from those being investigated for corruption.  

Organized by the government of Norway and the Basel Institute on Governance, the event publicized cases like Nuhu’s (here) and the late Maxwell Nkole of Zambia (here), corruption fighters who fled their homeland to escape assassination. Speakers discussed more recent cases too, including the less lethal but more insidious attack against Italian prosecutors Fabio Pasquale and Sergio Spadaro. The two face trumped up criminal charges and administrative proceedings for having the audacity to prosecute two large, Western oil companies for bribing Nigerian officials (here).

Maxwell and Nuhu likely survived the attempts to silence them permanently thanks to the Corruption Hunter Network. The brainchild of Eva Joly, France’s premier anticorruption fighter and supported by the Norwegian government, the group of anticorruption investigators, prosecutors, and activists meets twice a year to provide one another moral support. It scrounged up funding for year-long “sabbaticals” for Nuhu and Maxwell in countries where their enemies dared not to touch them.

Nuhu and Maxwell’s support was ad hoc and thanks only to a handful of bureaucrats willing to read internal agency guidelines “liberally.” As the fight against corruption intensifies, we can expect more Nuhus, Maxwells, Fabios, and Sergios. Will those in the international community committed to the fight against corruption support these frontline troops?

The full video of “Anticorruption Prosecutors Under Attack” is here, the audio file here. More on the event, the speakers, and the key takeaways is on the Basel Institute’s website here.

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