Report shows white-collar crime impacts on rights

Although the violent nature of crime in South Africa is often highlighted, white-collar crimes are rampant and impact negatively on citizens’ rights, a South African Human Rights Commission report released on Thursday said.

“The scourge of crime in South Africa is by no means limited to violent crime,” researchers wrote in the Human Rights Development Report.

“The moral decay also manifests itself in the proliferation of crimes being committed in the business sector,” the report said.

This contributes to the denial and limitation of rights of South African citizens and, of concern, is the “relative impunity” with which these white-collar crimes are being committed.

A study conducted by Fujitso Siemens and Standard Bank last year revealed that one of the main concerns facing small, medium and micro enterprises was crime, and not financial fears.

PricewaterhouseCoopers’ economic crime survey published in October 2007, showed that 72% of South African companies surveyed were victims of economic crime—higher than the 42% global average.

Levels have decreased since the last survey but they are still above the global average, the report said.

Bribery and corruption were perceived to be the most prevalent crimes, with money laundering seen as being on the increase.

The report said that the recent anti-competitive behaviour uncovered in the bread price-fixing scandal, should not be characterised as a “more civilised form of illegal corporate activity”.

” ... Especially when dealing with basic commodities like bread, one cannot separate the illegal activities of companies from their impact on the economic and social rights of the communities who comprise their customer base and from whom they derive their profit.”

South Africa was also yet to become a signatory to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development convention on combating bribery, although it was a signatory to the United Nations convention against corruption, the report said.

It recommended producing joint and coordinated crime statistics and setting up a committee to oversee the restructuring of the criminal justice system. - Sapa

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