Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The Second Africa Regional Anti-Corruption Seminar

Last week in Cameroon, the U.S. Department of Justice and Cameroonian Ministry of Justice co-sponsored the Second Africa Regional Anti-Corruption Seminar (see here for the U.S. Embassy's press release). As noted in the release, the annual seminar series "was started by the U.S. government because of the growing transnational nature of corruption and the importance many African nations attached to the recovery of stolen assets abroad" and because "the United Nations Convention Against Corruption and several other multilateral initiatives call for increased international cooperation to combat corruption." According to the release, working sessions included: "international standards to fight against corruption and recover stolen assets; investigating corruption in state-owned corporations and enterprises; international funds transfers; and investigating corruption in customs and revenue services."

U.S. Ambassador Janet Garvey (see here) opened the seminar and here comments can be found here.

Among other things, Ambassador Garvey stated that "corruption is a global problem and I don’t have to tell you that much work needs to be done at every level to combat it."

She then stated:

"In the United States, companies listed on U.S. stock exchanges are subject to stiff punishment under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) if they are caught engaging in corruption. We take this very seriously and such major corporations as Siemens, Daimler, BHP Billiton, Kellog, Brown and Root, and Britain’s BAE Systems have recently been forced to pay huge fines under the FCPA."

Stiff punishment under the FCPA?

Does Ambassador Garvey know that Siemens, Daimler, and BAE System were not even charged with FCPA anti-bribery violations?

[Note - BHP Billiton has not recently been forced to pay huge fines under the FCPA. Rather, the company disclosed in April 2010 (see here) as follows: "Following requests for information from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission as a part of an investigation relating primarily to certain terminated minerals exploration projects, the Company has disclosed to relevant authorities evidence that it has uncovered regarding possible violations of applicable anti-corruption laws involving interactions with government officials. Accordingly, the Company is cooperating with the relevant authorities including conducting an internal investigation, which is continuing. It is not possible at this time to predict the scope or duration of the investigation or its likely outcome."]

Ambassador Garvey also stated as follows:

"In the U.S., we have taken other important steps to contribute to the global anti-corruption regime. Presidential Proclamation 7750 requires the U.S. Department of State to deny visas to citizens and government officials who have engaged in serious corruption."

For more on Presidential Proclamation 7750, including what happens when the Forest and Agriculture Minister of Equatorial Guinea and the son of Equatorial Guinea's president shows up at the U.S. "doorstep" on his way to his $35 million Malibu estate (see here). Short answer, he is let in. Despite the fact that federal law enforcement officials believe that "most if not all" of his wealth came from corruption related to oil and gas reserves in his home country. Despite the fact that the DOJ believes that he "may be receiving bribes or extortion payments" from oil companies operating in the country.

Thumbs up to the U.S. for sponsoring global anti-corruption seminars.

Thumbs down for yet another instance of "official rhetoric" not matching reality.

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