In Pari Delicto & Parens Patriae: Latin All Corruption Fighters Should Know

In pari delicto, Latin for “of equal fault,” is a legal doctrine that prevented the government that succeeded Saddam Hussein’s from recovering hundreds of millions of dollars in damages from those involved in Saddam and cronies’ corruption. It has deterred other governments taking power after a kleptocrat’s fall from attempting to recover damages as well. Parens patriae, Latin for another legal doctrine, is one way around the result in pari delicto dictates in kleptocracy cases.

Corruption hunters thus have good reason to learn Latin. At least enough to ensure that those who profit from a kleptocrat’s reign don’t escape reckoning when there is a regime change.

The barrier in pari delicto raises to a government recovering damages from a kleptocrat’s accomplices was first revealed in a suit the post-Saddam government filed in 2008.

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Current and Former Mozambican Presidents, Other Higher Ups “Cleared” in Hidden Debt Scandal

Last week the presiding judge in Mozambique’s hidden debt trial made it plain that the country’s current and former presidents and other senior members of the country’s ruling party would not have to answer for their role in the hidden scandal. The massive corruption scheme has cost the impoverished nation billions and ended any hope millions of its citizens could escape a life of abject poverty.

Nineteen middle-level officials and accomplices are on trial in Maputo for accepting bribes to approve $2.1 billion in contracts to the Middle East shipbuilding company Privinvest and then taking more bribes to have the government secretly borrow the money to finance the projects. The economy tanked and poverty rates skyrocketed when the secret loans were revealed.

As he was finishing his testimony last Thursday, the General Director of the State Intelligence and Security Services, the highest ranking official on trial, complained to trial judge Efigénio Baptista, “I am here alone.” He said he was the only member of the Joint Command and the Operation Command, the inter-agency groups that cooked up the scheme, to be prosecuted.

“The former Minister of National Defense, Filipe Nyusi, and the former Minister of the Interior, Alberto Mondlane, should be answering. They were also part of the Joint Command.”

The judge explained that Nyusi, now the country’s president, and Mondlane, governor of an important province, were not charged because the prosecution had no evidence they had taken bribes.  He also helpfully went on to add that for the same reason Armando Guebuza, president when the contracts were let and the loans taken out, was not on trial. 

The above comes from the Centro para Democracia e Desenvolvimento reports on the trial. This one, recounting the state security director’s testimony, also helpfully reminded readers of the testimony of Jean Boustani at a 2018 trial in New York. There the Privinvest senior executive provided details about the bribes Privinvest paid Nyusi, Guebuza, and other officials not among the 19 on trial in Mozambique. Perhaps Judge Baptista and the Mozambican prosecutor have overlooked something?

Three Reasons Anticorruption Academics Fail: A Commentary on Rothstein

Last week, Professor Bo Rothstein, one of the most influential senior researchers in the anticorruption field, published a blog post entitled “Three Reasons Anti-Corruption Programs Fail.” The post (which draws from Professor Rothstein’s earlier writings and his new book) sets out to explain why the anticorruption efforts sponsored by a combination of domestic reformers and the international development community have been a “huge policy failure.” The three reasons for this purported failure laid out in the post are (1) use of the wrong definition of corruption (2) use of the wrong social science theory to frame and analyze corruption, and (3) locating corruption “in the wrong social spaces.”

I am disappointed to report that I find little in the post that is correct. Professor Rothstein’s post does illustrate some important and ongoing failures in anticorruption thinking—just not in the way that he intended. Rather, the post inadvertently illustrates certain tendencies that afflict a certain strain of academic work on the corruption topic—tendencies that render scholarship on corruption far less useful to the world than it could or should be. I’m particularly troubled when I encounter bright young up-and-coming researchers who appear to be misled by these tendencies. So with all due respect to Professor Rothstein, I will use his post as a framing device to highlight the problems I see and to urge the new generation of anticorruption researchers to be mindful of them.

Before proceeding, an important note: Despite what I just said, and what I’m going to say in the remainder of the post, I like and respect Professor Rothstein. We have met on several occasions, and he has always treated me graciously. He was the driving force behind the founding and development of the University of Gothenburg’s Quality of Government Institute, which consistently produces excellent research and researchers. He is a prolific writer, and by all accounts a generous and supportive mentor, coauthor, and teacher. My objective in this post is most definitely not to entertain readers with the gratuitous academic blood-sport that is unfortunately too popular in some quarters. Yet at the same time, precisely because Professor Rothstein is such an influential figure in the field, his writings ought to be subjected to rigorous critical scrutiny, especially given the importance of the topic. This isn’t a game, and we must hold one another to very high standards, even when this means assessing harshly the work of people we generally like and respect. I suspect Professor Rothstein would agree with that last sentiment, though probably not with anything else in this post.

With that important note out of the way, let me highlight the three common tendencies in academic writing on corruption that Professor Rothstein’s post illustrates: (1) an unhealthy and unhelpful obsession with definitions; (2) misunderstanding and misuse of social science concepts, particularly a fixation on capital-T “Theories”; and (3) sweeping and uncharitable dismissiveness of prior work and thinking on the topic.

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Will FRELIMO Betray the Mozambican People to Protect Its Own?

FRELIMO, Mozambique’s governing party, is at a historic crossroads. A party once known for the integrity of its leaders and its commitment to the welfare of all Mozambicans must choose: Pursue a lawsuit to recoup damages from the “hidden debt scandal” that will expose the role of Felipe Nyusi, its leader and the country’s president, in the corruption. Or scrap the suit to protect him.

The scandal arose from some $150 million Dubai-based shipbuilder Privinvest paid Mozambican officials to approve $2.1 billion in contracts to supply it with coastal patrol vessels, tuna boats, and a shipyard to maintain them. Privinvest kicked back $50 million from the deal to Credit Suisse executives in return for their arranging financing for the purchases. The loans they secured were not disclosed: either to the Mozambique parliament, as required by law, or to the IMF, as required under the terms of an IMF bailout loan. When the Wall Street Journal revealed them, donors cut funding, foreign investors pulled out, and the economy tanked.  

This hidden debt scandal may well go down as the most damaging corruption scam in modern history. According to a recent estimate by a team from Mozambique’s Centro de Integridade Pública and Norway’s Chr. Michelsen Institute, the damages from the scandal over the 2016-2019 period alone equals $11 billion, $403 for every man, woman, and child in Mozambique. At the same time, the World Bank ranks it as the world’s third poorest nation with a GDP per capita for 2020 of a little over $1200.

Mozambique’s only chance to recover the enormous damage the scandal has done is a civil law suit the government filed against Privinvest, Credit Suisse, and many of the individuals involved.  Privinvest has now countered. At paragraph 22.5 of its defense, the shipbuilder claims Nyusi was “fully aware of, and/or participated, in [the corruption], and indeed was at the heart of the matters now complained of by the Republic.”

The threat is now on the table. If Mozambique continues to press the suit, Privinvest will produce in excruciating detail evidence of Nyusi’s involvement. The only way to avoid the likely discrediting of the party’s ruling elite is for Mozambique to scrap the suit.

Will a party once led by the likes of Eduardo Mondlane and Samora Machel sell out the Mozambican people to maintain its grip on power? Will those party members who were their colleagues and those whom they inspired with their dream of a free and prosperous Mozambique stand up?

Guest Post. Effective AML Strategy: A Small Country Perspective

Smaller states are often thought to be more vulnerable to money laundering: less resources, fewer personnel, a lackadaisical attitude towards others’ problems. But as Charles Littrell explains in today’s guest post, even the smallest jurisdictions can prevent money laundering if there is the will to do so, and those don’t care or think they will benefit by turning a blind eye towards it are inviting a particularly virulent strain of cancer into their society.  Mr. Littrell is head of bank and trust company supervision for the Central Bank of The Bahamas, including AML supervision.  He was formerly an executive at the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority, and a member of the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision. He founded and is the Convener of the International Research Conference on Empirical Approaches to Anti-Money Laundering. This post represents Mr. Littrell’s personal views.

This post outlines a suggested strategy for small states to engage in the international money laundering movement.  The strategy comprises three elements:

  • Know what you don’t want—which is engagement with dirty money and the people associated with dirty money.
  • Deploy locally successful AML tactics in a globally unsuccessful world.
  • Proactively manage the FATF relationship.

Despising dirty money and dirty people

The core element in a successful small state AML strategy is sincere and comprehensive rejection of foreign illicit money, and the people associated with that money. The world’s major league criminals and their financial facilitators are among the least attractive and most dangerous human beings on the planet, and a successful small state will absolutely not welcome such people, their money, or their activities.

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With a Dad’s Help? Home Mozambique President Filipe Nyusi’s Son Bought

Not every 21-year-old has the means to buy a luxury house in one of Cape Town’s toniest neighborhoods. But somehow Jacinto Nyusi of Mozambique managed, plopping down 3.9 million rand, $350,000, for the home pictured above. In cash no less.  

While he isn’t saying where he got the money, many Mozambicans allege his father helped. The July 2014 purchase was made while father Felipe Nyusi was Minister of Defense and shortly after he had been tapped as ruling party FRELIMO’s candidate for president, guaranteeing victory at the January 2015 election. More significant, say many Mozambicans, is the house was bought while the country was swimming in money Middle East shipbuilding giant Privinest was allegedly doling out to Nyusi père and other senior officials to seal the deal on the hidden debt scandal, a corruption case which has wreaked more harm on more people than any in decades.

Thanks to sleuths from Mozambique’s Center for Public Integrity, CIP after its initials in Portuguese, the records documenting Jacinto’s purchase of the house are circulating freely in Maputo. Click here for them and for more on why so many think dad helped him buy it.

 

Proposed Method for Assessing the Transparency, Accountability, and Inclusiveness of the Return of Stolen Assets: Comments Requested

France recently enacted an asset repatriation law enshrining GFAR-inspired principles of transparency, accountability, and inclusivity. Now that the principles are law, the French chapter of Transparency International has set out to ensure they are observed in practice.

To that end, it has developed a method for evaluating the return process on each of the three dimensions using indicators for each as shown in the diagram.

The organization plans to publish its methodology, alongside concrete examples from past restitution processes of good and weak practices, as a handbook. Publication is now scheduled for the beginning of October.

TI-France welcomes feedback and comments on its methodology. Click here for the French version of the paper explaining it and here for the English translation. The group would be pleased to receive thoughts and suggestions by September 10th.  They should be directed to Sara Brimbeuf and Rahima Zitoumbi at sara.brimbeuf@transparency-france.org and rahima.zitoumbi@transparency-france.org.

Mozambique Hidden Debt Case: South Africa Must Say Why It Thinks Chang Will Face Justice; Trial Summary

Earlier today, August 27, the South African High Court blocked the extradition of former Mozambican Finance Minister Manuel Chang to Mozambique.

The order (here) came in response to an urgent request (here) by the Forum De Monitoria Do Orçamento, a coalition of Mozambican civil society groups, raising serious doubts that were Chang, a senior member of Mozambique’s ruling party, returned he would face justice for his part in a scheme that drove millions of fellow citizens into poverty and cost the impoverished nation billions of dollars in lost GDP (here).

The United States is also seeking Chang’s extradition for participating in the hidden debt scheme, and there is a widespread belief he is far more likely to face justice if extradited there.  South African law bars the government from picking Mozambique over the United States if it does not think Change will be tried, or if tried, the trial will be anything more than theatre. The court has ordered South African Minister of Justice and Correctional Services Ronald Lamola to produce the documents justifying his choice of Mozambique by August 30. A hearing on the decision is set for September 17. If the court finds the evidence supporting the decision insufficient, “irrational” in South African legal terms, it will vacate the extradition order.

Separately, Centro para Democracia e Desenvolvimento, a Mozambican civil society organization and FMO member, has released English language summaries of the first four days of the hidden debt trial.  Click on the day to see: Day 1, day 2, day 3, day 4.

Mozambique Hidden Debt Scandal UPDATE: Two Presidents Implicated/Crony’s Return Temporarily Blocked

The government of Mozambique took two hits at the second day of what could well be the corruption trial of the decade. Defendant Cipriano Mutota, a former intelligence official, testified that both the country’s current president and his predecessor were deeply involved in the corruption, a scheme where officials approved $2.1 billion in secret loans for dodgy projects in return for $150 million in bribes. His gripping testimony, captured in a screen grab circulating on Mozambican social media, appears below.

Separately, the Budget Monitoring Forum, or FMO after its initials in Portuguese, has filed an emergency motion to prevent South Africa from extraditing Manual Chang, who signed off on the loans as Finance Minister, to Mozambique. Chang has been jailed in South Africa for two years pending the government’s decision on whether to extradite him to the U.S. or Mozambique. Both want him, the U.S. because American investors lost millions thanks to the secret debts, Mozambique to stand trial for his role in the corruption.

Screenshot, Hidden debt trial, August 24, 2021

The government of South Africa has agreed to delay returning Chang to Mozambique pending a hearing on its legality Friday at 10:00 AM. Along with South Africa’s Minister of Justice, the government of Mozambique will appear and argue in support of the decision. FMO’s draft order, which the court accepted and issued, is here.

FMO filed the emergency request Tuesday evening after the South African government refused to consent to a brief delay in Chang’s return to allow an orderly consideration of whether the decision complied with South African and international law. In its filing, the group, an umbrella organization whose 22 civil society organizations serve virtually every impoverished or low income Mozambican, argues that the evidence shows the government will not really put such a senior figure on trial for corruption. Or if it does, he will get a most a slap on the wrist for a scheme that threw millions into poverty and by one estimate shaved $10 billion off the GDP.

FMO cites a previous Mozambique extradition request (here) that had every appearance of a put-up job, initiated not to bring Chang to justice but from a fear that were he sent to the U.S. he would spill the beans on cronies in return for leniency. Rumors circulating in Maputo that Chang’s relatives have planned a lavish welcome home party have only stoked concerns he has little to fear from a trial in Mozambique.

FMO chair Adriano Nuvunga has called South Africa’s decision to send Chang to Mozambique, “a victory of impunity” and has urged “all southern Africa CSO movements to come together to stop the triumph of impunity.” FMO’s papers seeking a temporary delay in Chang’s return pending a full hearing are here. The Gauteng Division of the High Court may act on the request as early as Wednesday morning South African time.

On Corruption

Taking a break from his GAB duties, our indefatigable editor-in-chief Matthew Stephenson provides readers of Liberties, a leading American journal on culture and politics, a tutorial on corruption. GAB readers will not want to miss it. For in less than 10,000 words, his essay not only make sense of the (tens of? hundreds of?) millions of words written on the topic but provides corruption fighters an order of battle.

Citing passages from the Hebrew Bible and the great Indian text on governance the Arthaśāstra, Matthew reminds that corruption has always been with us and always tolerated — if only grudgingly. What’s new is the extraordinary international consensus that has formed over the past quarter century to end that toleration. Matthew explains how that consensus developed and the opposition it has had to overcome. From those who argue that in some societies corruption is culturally acceptable, from those who believe corruption fosters economic development, and from those think nothing can be done to combat it.

He calls each of these claims a “quasi-myth,” for each contains a kernel of truth, just enough to make a debater’s point. He crushes each, with the cultural determinate one quoting Edmund Burke’s pithy response that the claim of “geographical morality” simply doesn’t stand up to scrutiny.  

The research on corruption has exploded over the past two decades. Matthew’s bibliography is now at 720 pages! He seems to have read every one of the articles, for he brings their findings to bear on the pros and cons of the various solutions that have been proposed — “wise king,” “moment of crisis,” “long slog” — interweaving stories how Denmark, Sweden, and the United States overcame entrenched corruption. He admits that taming corruption is no easy task, especially where it involves persuading corrupt elites reform is critical (“bit like trying to convince turkeys to support Thanksgiving”), but he concludes that while history shows the cancer of corruption can never be fully eradicated “progress against this chronic disease of the body politic is possible, so long as those engaged in the fight do not lose heart.”

The full text of Matthew Stephenson, “Honey and Poison: On Corruption,” Liberties, Summer 2021 is here.