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Anti-Corruption World Gathers In Panama

Note:  Professor Juliet Sorensen (Northwestern University School of Law) and Northwestern Law students Akane Tsuruta and Jessica Dwinell are attending the Fifth Conference of the State Parties (CoSP) to the United Nations Convention against Corruption in Panama City, Panama.  See here for a live feed of the States Parties’ discussions.

This first post regarding the proceedings is by Jessia Dwinell.

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For the next six days, the anti-corruption world will be centered in Panama City, Panama. Specifically, from November 24th to November 29th, 1,500 state party delegates representing approximately 130 nations and 450 representatives from civil society and intergovernmental organizations will participate in the Fifth Conference of the States Parties (CoSP) to the United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC). Ninety-eight journalists are registered to cover the proceedings.

The UN General Assembly adopted the UNCAC in October 2003, an international anti-corruption instrument now ratified by 167 state parties. When first adopted, the UNCAC provided the first global framework aimed at harmonizing anti-corruption measures across borders. Acknowledging the importance of both preventive and punitive measures, the General Assembly included provisions requiring the criminalization of corruption in domestic laws, asset forfeiture, mutual legal assistance and the provision of technical assistance and training to personnel responsible for combating corruption. Participants in the Fifth CoSP will seek to improve the capacity and cooperation between States Parties, strengthen asset recovery mechanisms and review the current implementation of the UNCAC provisions.

In preparation for the Fifth CoSP’s official opening and the States Parties’ general remarks, members of the UNCAC Coalition, civil society organizations and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) met on Sunday, November 24 to discuss the role civil society will play at this year’s conference. Members from all of the organizations stressed the need for patience, cooperation between States Parties representatives and civil society and a coherent, focused agenda. For instance, John Sandage, Director of the Division for Treaty Affairs at the UNODC, stressed that combating corruption and strengthening the UNCAC is “a process, not a destination.” Vincent Lazatin, the UNCAC Coalition Chair, mirrored this sentiment when he acknowledged that “these things [changes] are glacial” and called for patience.

The UNODC, an organization that according to Mr. Sandage, “helps civil society participate in States who welcome their participation,” often works with Transparency International to organize civil society training sessions. In preparation for the week’s proceedings, Mirella Dummar-Frahi, the Civil Affairs Officer and Team Leader, Civil Society Team of the UNODC advised civil society representatives, “[i]n normal life, there is the right way and the wrong way, and then there is the UN way. And the UN way is to build consensus.” Mr. Lazatin further underscored that it is often difficult for civil society organizations to find the boundaries without overstepping them. Patience, once more, appeared to be the solution.

As the proceedings commence tomorrow, the States Parties will debate draft resolutions, seek stronger guidelines on what the UNCAC requires in the realm of criminalization and enforcement and push for mandatory access to information laws. Civil society members, likewise, will advance key initiatives—such as to increase transparency, protect whistleblowers and enact measures to better return fruits of corruption to the victims—all measures which fall within the framework and the text of the current Convention. Though only time will tell, hopefully the Fifth CoSP will lead to the productive consensus building that defines the “UN way.”

Potpourri

AG Holder On Corruption

Last week Attorney General Eric Holder was in Slovenia to speak at The Balkans Justice Ministerial. In his speech (here) AG Holder focused on the “global fight against corruption.”

Holder stated as follows.

“Corruption strikes hardest at the most vulnerable among us, siphoning scarce resources away from those most in need. It advances the selfish desires of a dishonest few over the best interests of those who work hard and obey the law. In countries rich and poor, large and small – corruption erodes trust in government and private institutions alike. It undermines confidence in the fairness of free and open markets. It stifles competition and repels foreign investment. It hinders progress, and it breeds contempt for the rule of law.”

“And yet corruption continues to flourish.”

Holder stressed that “all nations struggle against corruption” and that the U.S “is no exception.”

Holder called on all nations “to ratify – and to fully implement – the UN Convention Against Corruption.” (See here).

As to asset recovery, Holder repeated his call first made in Qatar (see here for the prior post) that asset recovery (i.e. ensuring that corrupt officials do not retain illicit proceeds) “isn’t just a global necessity – it’s a moral imperative.”

U.K. Oil for Food Sentence

With its approximately twenty corporate enforcement actions connected to the U.N. Iraq Oil for Food Program, the U.S. is clearly the leader in collecting corporate fines connected to this scandal plagued, defunct program.

The U.K. however has clearly emerged as the leader in holding individuals (not just corporations) to account for illegal behavior in connection with the program.

Last week, the U.K. Serious Fraud Office announced (here) that Mark Jessop admitted to breaking U.N. sanctions during the Oil For Food Program by making illegal payments to Saddam Hussein’s government. The release states that Jessop was sentenced to 24 weeks’ imprisonment. According to the release, Jessop was ordered to pay £150,000 to the Development Fund for Iraq and pay prosecution costs of £25,000. Jessop sold medical goods to Iraq, initially as an employee of a British surgical instruments company, but later through his own companies – JJ Bureau Ltd and Opthalmedex Ltd, of which he was sole director.

For other recent U.K. Oil for Food sentences, see here for the prior post.

Resource Extraction Disclosures

Remember Section 1504 of the Dodd-Frank Act? (See here for the prior post).

The Huffington Post reports (here) that the April 15th deadline for the SEC to issue final implementing regulations has passed. According to the SEC (see here) the new target date for final implementing rules is between August and December.

I guess this is what happens when an ill-conceived, poorly drafted law is inserted into a massive piece of legislation as a miscellaneous provision at the last moment without any meaningful debate or analysis.

World Bank News

Last week, the World Bank released (here) a “Declaration of Agreed Principles for Effective Global Enforcement to Counter Corruption.” See here for the press release.

The release also notes that the World Bank’s Integrity office’s (“INT”) FY10 results include “117 investigations in FY10, with 45 debarments of firms and individuals for engaging in wrongdoing.” For INT’s FY2010 Annual Report, see here.

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