Corruption is not just an African thing

It should come as no surprise to anyone that the Gambia’s deposed dictator, Yahya Jammeh, was fabulously corrupt. A new investigation by the Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project reveals, for the first time, the scale of that corruption, and the mechanisms that Jammeh employed to steal nearly $1-billion from state coffers — as we report on Page 12 of this edition.

But this story is not just about the Gambia. It’s much, much bigger than that.

It may surprise some — although it really shouldn’t — that a Western financial institution played a crucial role in facilitating this looting. A key player in Jammeh’s intricate web of holding companies and dodgy tenders was a Belgian bank called KBC. This bank once financed the apartheid regime; then it turned a blind eye to illicit financial flows from the Gambia, allowing Jammeh and his cronies to loot with impunity.

It is easy to forget that corruption is a two-way street. Forget the lazy stereotypes: corruption has never been just an African thing. All too often, when evidence of corruption in African countries is uncovered, foreign financial institutions are at the heart of the scandal.

In fact, it was African leaders who led the most concerted effort to overhaul the current international financial system that makes it so easy for crooks to hide their ill-gotten gains, and fails to punish the institutions that facilitate these transactions.

In 2015, former president Thabo Mbeki led an African Union panel that sought to determine how much the African continent was losing every year through illicit financial flows, and what could be done to fix the problem. He estimated that illicit financial flows cost the continent nearly R1-trillion every year, and that the easiest solution would be to shut down the tax havens and tax loopholes that make illicit financial flows nearly impossible to trace.

South Africa, as that year’s chair of the G77, presented Mbeki’s proposals at the United Nations’ Financing for Development conference, which aimed to establish new funding mechanisms to meet the sustainable development goals. But views of the developing countries represented in the G77 were shut down by developed nations, led by the United Kingdom and the United States, which refused to countenance any substantive changes to the international taxation system — ensuring that the pipelines of corruption remain open.

That Jammeh stole nearly a billion dollars from one of the poorest countries on Earth is profoundly wrong. He will go down in history as a monster, and rightly so. But he is not the only villain in this story. The Belgian bankers who helped him to get away with it should be named and shamed. So too should the Western governments that have created an international financial system that allows corruption to flourish, and then refuse to countenance any substantive reform. Until the system changes, what is to prevent the next Jammeh from doing it all over again?

Advertisting

Ramaphosa ‘neutral’ in Mkhwebane, Parliament impeachment row

However, the president says even if he has a conflict of interest, another Cabinet member could suspend the public protector

February 11 1990: Mandela’s media conquest

Nelson Mandela’s release from prison was also South Africa’s first ‘media event’. And, despite the NP’s, and the SABC’s, attempt to control the narrative, the force of Madiba’s personality meant that he emerged as a celebrity

Strike-off case pulls in judge

Judge Mushtak Parker is implicated in an application to strike off his former partners. He is also involved in the fight between the Western Cape high court’s judge president and his deputy

One strike and you’re out – registrar tells unions

A municipal workers’ union is the first to be sanctioned for not following the new rule when deciding whether to go on strike
Advertising

Press Releases

Response to the report of the independent assessors

VUT welcomes the publishing of the report of the independent assessors to investigate concerns of poor governance, leadership, management, corruption and fraud at the university.

NWU student receives international award

Carol-Mari Schulz received the Bachelor of Health Sciences in Occupational Hygiene Top Achiever Award.

Academic programme resumes at all campuses

Lectures, practicals, seminars and tutorials will all resume today as per specific academic timetables.

Strategic social investments are a catalyst for social progress

Barloworld Mbewu enables beneficiaries to move away from dependence on grant funding

We all have a part to play to make South Africa work

Powering societal progress demands partnerships between all stakeholders

So you want to be a social entrepreneur?

Do the research first; it will save money and time later

Social entrepreneurship means business

Enterprises with a cause at their core might be exactly what our economy desperately needs

Looking inwards

Businesses are finding tangible ways to give back – but only because consumers demand it