How to Combat Match Fixing, the International Corruption Problem in Sports

The recent rise and prevalence of corruption in sport has drawn the attention of the international community. As Transparency International highlights in their 2016 report, professional sports not only engage billions of people worldwide, but also involve significant amounts of money. Such corruption thus creates tremendous societal and economic burdens. Match fixing is one form of corruption that has impacted a wide range of sports, including tennis, cricket, soccer, boxing, basketball, and baseball all within the last year. This problem not only permeates low-level games, but also impacts high-profile events such as World Cup qualifiers, European Championship qualifiers, and even Champions League Games.

On the surface, it may seem as though match fixing is a victimless crime, or at least one that’s not sufficiently serious to attract the attention of anticorruption advocates. Yet because match fixing scandals have implications that stretch far beyond the playing field, the anticorruption community should care about this problem for at least two reasons. First, as previously discussed on this blog, corruption scandals in sports are highly visible, and corruption in sports can attract public attention in ways that other corrupt activities cannot. Second, match fixing facilitates organized crime and other corrupt activities. Organized criminals engage in match fixing because it is a low-risk enterprise with the potential for large rewards from unregulated betting markets.

A recent report by the United Nation Office on Drugs and Crime investigated match fixing and tried to understand some of its underlying causes. The report cites a number of factors that have allowed this threat to grow, including “personal greed, weak governance structures of sport as a sector, easily accessible global betting markets that are open to exploitation, low prioritization of match fixing as a threat by law enforcement agencies and the use of sport by organized criminals to advance their own interests.” In attempting to address these causes, 28 countries have proposed, adopted, or enacted specific legislation criminalizing match fixing. Yet even in those jurisdictions where such sanctions exist, regulations have been ineffective. Unfortunately, the complicated transnational nature of sports betting makes it difficult for regulations to prevent match fixing in an effective way. Proving that match fixing occurred requires collection and analysis of a substantial amount of betting evidence, which is particularly difficult to obtain in unregulated betting markets. Furthermore, despite the presence of regulations, significant financial incentives continue to pressure athletes to participate in match fixing.

Therefore, given the inherent difficulties with controlling such behavior, there are two things that can be done to more effectively deter match fixing.

Continue reading

To Fight Corruption, the Green Climate Fund Should Improve the Anticorruption Mechanisms in its Accreditation Process

The Green Climate Fund (GCF), which the UN created in 2010, seeks to marshal pledges of $100 billion per year by 2020 from wealthy nations (which have been disproportionately and primarily responsible for the world’s carbon emissions), as well as other private and public sources, to finance climate change mitigation and adaptation projects in developing nations, which bear the greater share of adverse effects from those emissions. Last March, the United States delivered $500 million to the GCF, the first installment of the $3 billion pledge the United States made as part of the COP 21 UN Climate Summit last December. Climate and development advocates hope that the GCF will support development that is both “low-emission” and “climate-resilient,” helping countries limit greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to impacts of climate change. The GCF operates principally through so-called “accredited entities”—private and public sector subnational, national, regional, and international entities, which will implement climate change programs using GCF funds. These entities are selected through an accreditation process (hence the name), which assesses their ability to manage resources against the GCF’s fiduciary principles, environmental and social safeguards, and gender policy. Specific projects are assessed against investment criteria, including impact potential, sustainable development potential, responsiveness to recipients’ needs, promotion of country ownership, and efficiency.

As with many humanitarian or development aid efforts, the GCF is not without corruption risks. Recognizing this, the GCF Board approved an Initial Monitoring & Accountability Framework for the accredited entities that manage and implement GCF projects. Yet the GCF should do more to ensure that its basic accreditation mechanisms themselves rigorously evaluate entities for their capacities not only to disburse climate funds but also to monitor and address corruption. This up front assessment would complement efforts to ensure that entities, once accredited, remain faithful to the Fund’s fiduciary principles. The following aspects of the GCF accreditation process raise potential corruption risks, and the GCF should take steps to address them: Continue reading

Does Immunity Mean Impunity?: Understanding Obstacles in the Prosecution of U.N. Corruption

Corruption has yet again publicly surfaced as a significant problem at the United Nations. The current bribery scandal implicates John Ashe, the U.N. ambassador from Antigua and Barbuda and the former President of the General Assembly, along with several others. Ashe stands accused of accepting $1.3 million in bribes from Chinese developers in exchange for promoting real estate projects. Among the others who have come under scrutiny is Francis Lorenzo, the Dominican Republic’s deputy ambassador to the U.N., who allegedly accepted and paid bribes as a part of a scheme to influence decisions related to the development of a multi-billion dollar U.N. conference center in Macau.

As both Sarah and Matthew have previously discussed, the U.N. has not done an admirable job of policing itself. But now the organization may be getting help from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York. In October 2015, the FBI arrested Ashe and Lorenzo on charges of tax evasion and bribery, respectively. But the prosecution of officials of an international organization poses uncommon challenges. U.N. diplomats can claim certain immunity against suit in American courts, and both Ashe and Lorenzo plan to assert such immunity as a complete defense. U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara feels confident that he will be able to defeat these immunity claims, and he has further implied that he will be able to do so in future cases.

Is Bharara’s confidence well-founded? Any assessment of how American prosecutors (or other national prosecutions) may fight corruption at the U.N. requires delving into the complex legal doctrines on diplomatic immunities. This post aims to offer a brief primer on the key legal concepts and doctrines, and how they might apply in the Ashe and Lorenzo cases. Continue reading

Broken System: The Failure to Punish High Level Corruption at the UN

“Is bribery business as usual at the UN?”

So asked U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, and with good reason. Notwithstanding the UN’s protestations to the contrary, recent years have seen a succession of UN corruption scandals. Among the most infamous is the Iraqi Oil-for-Food case, in which Saddam Hussein, in collaboration with UN staff members, earned billions of dollars through kickbacks and illegal oil smuggling. Corruption in some UN peacekeeping operations is high, with new corruption cases coming to light on a regular basis. And last October, new charges of corruption were brought against (among others) a former UN General Assembly President and another UN diplomat who allegedly were engaged in an important bribery scheme.

Each time a new corruption case is exposed, the UN’s public reaction is the same: the Secretary-General states that the organization is treating the matter with the utmost seriousness and initiates an internal investigation or audit, while at the same time the organization attempts to “sweep the matter under the rug” by claiming that senior UN officials were unaware of the problem, and that this was an isolated incident involving a few bad apples, not the UN system itself. Yet given the frequency of UN corruption scandals, it is about time that the organization stops pretending that this is just a “few bad apples” problem, and try to understand why it faces these situations with such frequency.

The natural place to start is with the UN’s system for investigating and sanctioning corrupt practices, in particular the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS). OIOS performs internal audits and investigations into reported violations of UN regulations, rules, and administrative issuances, and is also authorized to initiate proactive investigations to assess potential fraud risks in “high-risk areas.” OIOS’s mandate is strictly limited to administrative fact-finding; it does not conduct criminal investigations, and indeed the UN has no criminal jurisdiction over its personnel. But as an employer, the UN can impose disciplinary sanctions in response to wrongdoing or take other administrative measures. In the UN context, these administrative sanctions are particularly important because UN staff members, officials, and diplomats are granted immunity from local prosecutions, and therefore domestic prosecutions in the countries where the corruption took place can be difficult unless these immunities are waived. In such circumstances, a strong internal anticorruption system within the UN itself is even more essential to avoid impunity.

Yet although the OIOS looks good on paper, critics both outside the organization (see, for example, here and here) and inside as well, have said that the OIOS is not doing an adequate job investigating corruption and fraud. There are at least three reasons for this: Continue reading

Guest Post: The United Nations, Post-Conflict Societies, and Whistleblower Protection — Understanding the Connections

Ambassador Ugljesa Ugi Zvekic, Former Permanent Representative of the Republic of Serbia to the United Nations Senior Adviser and currently Adjunct Professor at LUISS School of Government in Rome, contributes the following guest post, which is based on research conducted by Ambassador Zvekic’s students Giorgio Sirtori, Alessandro Sabbini, and Alessandro Dowling:

Post-conflict countries are breeding grounds for corruption, due to the combination of weak (or non-existent) institutions, the chaos generated by both the previous conflict, the willingness of international interveners (and donors) to tolerate corruption as the price of stability. Indeed, of the sixteen ongoing international peacekeeping operations across the globe, almost all of these operations take place in some of the most corrupt areas of the world. While it is tempting to say that tackling corruption can and should be left to a later time, after basic needs have been met and basic rights have been guaranteed. But in fact our research, including case studies on international peacekeeping operations in the Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan, and Kosovo, reveals that corruption jeopardizes peacekeeping and state-building operations per se, and, consequently, it is vital to incorporate anticorruption efforts at the earliest stages of these kinds of operations.

Given the importance of anticorruption measures in state-building and peacekeeping operations, one issue that should be high up in the agenda of the United Nations is that of whistleblower protection. However, the UN’s own policy on internal whistleblowers has been disappointing, and jeopardizes the UN’s efforts to fight corruption and to promote accountability in post-conflict settings. Continue reading

Guest Post: Fighting Corruption in Anti-Deforestation Programs — The Case of REDD+

Aled Williams, Senior Advisor at the U4 Anti-Corruption Resource Centre, contributes the following guest post:

The protection of tropical forests is a hot topic, particularly in light of the pressing threat of global climate change. The 2014 UN Climate Summit saw a range of national and subnational governments, along with numerous business and civil society organizations, endorsed the New York Declaration on Forests, which set a timeline for cutting natural forest loss in half (by 2020) and ending it completely (by 2030). A major goal of the declaration is to agree at the upcoming UN Climate Change Conference in Paris is to reduce deforestation and forest degradation as part of a post-2020 global climate agreement. And financial contributions are now stacking up, with more than USD 9.6 billion pledged by 22 countries to the UN’s Green Climate Fund.

Securing a global climate agreement that includes tropical deforestation would no doubt be a historic achievement. But once world leaders return from Paris next year, the proof of the pudding will lie in national implementation. They may well wish to consider what can be learned from recent schemes for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (known as REDD+), to date largely funded by the Norwegian government through bilateral arrangements with major deforesters like Indonesia and Brazil, but also channeled through multilateral agencies. It turns out that even when donors have pledged substantial amounts of money, spending that money effectively can be challenging. A major part of that challenge relates to the difficult political-economy of forest sector reform in developing countries, where corruption in its various guises can be a core feature. Indeed, despite being described as a potential game-changer for addressing tropical deforestation, REDD+ financing also risks increasing corruption and related problems like land grabbing.

These challenges are not new and indeed were well-known among Norwegian aid practitioners as REDD+ pilots began some four years ago. But the U4 Anti-Corruption Resource Centre has just completed a three year research project–based on case studies of REDD+ pilots in the DRC, Indonesia, Kenya, the Philippines, and Tanzania–that sheds some new light on the issues. The report’s empirical findings suggest three main lessons: Continue reading

UN, Heal Thyself: The UN’s Embarrassing Failure to Protect Whistleblowers

The United Nations has positioned itself as one of the leading global voices against corruption, principally through the UN Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC). Among the many vital topics covered by UNCAC is the protection of whistleblowers. UNCAC Article 33 provides:

Each State Party shall consider incorporating into its domestic legal system appropriate measures to provide protection against any unjustified treatment for any person who reports in good faith and on reasonable grounds to the competent authorities any facts concerning offences established in accordance with this Convention.

Though this provision is framed in non-mandatory terms, the UN and associated advocacy bodies clearly treat whistleblower protection as critical, both for countries and for the private businesses that the UN has pushed to join the UN Global Compact.

But what about the United Nations itself? Secretary General Ban-Ki Moon has declared that the UN has “developed a strict system of internal controls” and that the UN will “continue to remain vigilant and work hard to set an example.” And the UN’s Ethics Office promises to “protect[] staff from being punished for reporting misconduct or for cooperating with an official audit or investigation.” Providing protection to staff, the Ethics Office explains, “strengthens accountability and maintains the integrity of [the UN’s] operations and programmes.”

Sounds good.  But the actual UN practice is much more troubling–indeed, it should be downright embarrassing.  This was driven home most clearly in a decision that the United Nations Appeals Tribunal handed down this past September concerning the whistleblower James Wasserstrom, but the issue goes beyond any one individual case to the entire UN system–or lack thereof–for protecting internal whistleblowers from retaliation. I’m frankly surprised that this issue hasn’t gotten more press in the anticorruption community. Continue reading