By Lee Tae-hoon
Anti-corruption advocates and experts from around the world have gathered in Seoul to call for stronger global cooperation at the Symposium on Strengthening Global Leadership and Cooperation against Corruption.
On Tuesday, the first leg of the two-day conference, they discussed ways to ensure the effective implementation of anti-corruption policies around the world and raise awareness on the importance of strong anti-corruption measures being included in the G20 Seoul Statement.
Korea will host the G20 Summit on Nov. 11 and 12.
U.N. Convention against Corruption
During the forum, Giovanni Gallo, an expert at the U.N. Office of Drugs and Crime, said the very existence of an U.N. anti-corruption convention is proof that corruption is no longer a domestic crime.
“It is a crime that does not respect borders. There is a strong need for international cooperation on extradition and mutual legal assistance, law enforcement cooperation and joint investigations,” he said.
He claimed that borders and safe havens should not obstruct investigations in bringing guilty parties to justice.
The convention, which was adopted in 2003 and took effect in December 2005, aims at creating an effective global network of anti-corruption agencies. It has accelerated the pace of the global anti-corruption agenda.
Gallo noted that international cooperation is especially important when stolen assets need to be identified and recovered.
“It is possible to obtain the stolen billions back if innovative tools for asset recovery are put in place,” he said.
Gallo added that success depends on the removal of banking secrecy and a greater willingness by politicians and anti-corruption authorities of receiving states to cooperate for the return of stole resources.
He also expressed optimism that Korea and other member countries of the G20 Summit will play a big role in combating corruption.
At the previous summit in Toronto in June this year, G20 leaders called upon the world to ratify and implement the U.N. Convention against Corruption as a means to redouble international efforts to combat corruption.
They also agreed to establish a working group to draw up comprehensive recommendations for consideration by “leaders in Korea on how the G20 could continue to make practical and valuable contributions to international efforts to combat corruption.”
Transnational anti-corruption regime
Kevin Davis, professor at the New York University School of Law, addressed the limits of existing anti-corruption rounds and shed light on the role that foreign institutions play in combating corruption in developing countries.
He underscored the idea that foreign legal institutions can step in and be of assistance when their domestic counterparts are found wanting, which some people call a form of legal globalization.
“The international investment regime is typically justified by reference to the idea that investor-state arbitration can usefully compensate for the shortcomings of national courts in capital-importing countries,” Davis said.
“The idea of calling on foreign legal institutions to buttress domestic institutions is particularly appealing when what is at stake is the very integrity of the state.”
He also noted that globalization of the causes of corruption may demand globalization of the institutional responses.
Davis said transnational anti-corruption law began in the United States when investigations into “dirty tricks” by the Richard Nixon administration uncovered evidence that U.S. multinational corporations were routinely making illicit payments to foreign public officials out of secret slush funds.
Davis claimed that the anti-corruption movement began to bear fruit in the late 1990s, saying the first and most notable success was the conclusion of the OECD Convention in 1997.
He said developing countries also came under considerable pressure from international financial institutions and other actors to adopt international norms concerning government procurement during the period.
Davis stressed the role that foreign institutions can play in fighting corruption, saying they can press the government to adopt measures designed to minimize opportunities for corruption and impose criminal liability for paying bribes to local public officials.
He added that foreign institutions may extradite suspected bribe-payers, provide mutual legal assistance in the course of corruption and impose criminal liability for soliciting or accepting a bribe.
“It is also important to understand that foreign institutions may provide not only additional resources, but resources that local institutions cannot obtain at any price,” Davis said.
He pointed out that foreign legal institutions may have access to superior information and - with the advent of globalization - information about corporate misconduct can just as easily be located outside the jurisdiction of the bribe-recipient as inside.
Cons of transnational regime
Davis also addressed potential disadvantages of involving foreign legal institutions, including indifference and incompatibility.
He argued that self-interested foreign institutions will not dedicate their resources to combating corruption in developing countries because they, and their societies to which they belong, receive no material benefit from doing so.
He said a second set of arguments against relying on foreign institutions’ anti-corruption efforts is that those efforts may not be compatible with local needs or desires.
“Foreigners’ anti-corruption efforts may also be incompatible with the material interests, as opposed to the moral values, of local actors. The problem stems from the fact that many aspects of the transnational anti-corruption regime, including those which punish firms for paying bribes to foreign public officials, tend to discourage firms from doing business in countries with corrupt officials,” Davis said.
He argued that cutting off those countries’ access to trade and investment threatens to undermine their development prospects.
Also during the symposium, Moch Jasin, vice chairman of the Corruption Eradication Commission in Indonesia, introduced his country’s achievements and challenges of implementing anti-corruption policy.
Other panelists included Yu Xiancheng, director general on Corruption Prevention at the Ministry of Supervision in China, and Paul Lachal Roberts, adviser to the director-general at European Anti-Fraud Office, who shed light on the role of leading countries in anti-corruption efforts.
The second day will focus on issues concerning anti-corruption cooperation mechanisms between central and local governments.
The conference took place at the Sheraton Walkerhill in northeastern Seoul on the first day and will continue at the Alpensia Resort in PyeongChang, Gangwon Province on Wednesday.