Moscow Tax Official Illegally Wires up to $39 Million

Olga Stepanova, a former tax official who ran Moscow’s district tax office No. 28, wired money worth $39 million through her husband’s bank account after having fraudulently approved a $239 million tax return in 2007. All of this was done on an average monthly income equivalent of $38,000, according to William Browder (pictured here), who is an American-born investor who has since been barred from entering Russia.

The money was supposedly used to purchase property in Moscow, Montenegro, and Dubai, with the transactions occurring a few weeks after the fraudulent 2007 tax return was processed, according to documents held by James Firestone, who was the head of the law firm that employed Mr. Bowder’s now-deceased lawyer Sergey Magnitsky, who died in 2009 in a Russian prison after being accused by the authorities of tax evasion after he discovered fraud in the Interior Ministry.

The original story from the Miami Herald can be found here.

Azerbaijani Customs Officials Fight Corruption and Smuggling

At a Cabinet Minsters meeting on Wednesday, the State Customs Committee Chairman, Aydin Aliyev (pictured here) declared that 33 separate incidents of drug smuggling had been uncovered by Azerbaijani officials in the first quarter of the new year alone. Azerbaijani authorities have recently implemented new programs in order to increase transparency, prevent smuggling and tax evasion, and fight corruption in customs control.

Some interesting statistics unveiled on Wednesday by Mr. Aliyev include the confiscation of 40.7 kg of drugs, 4,665 incidents of customs offenses – 60% of which were of a criminal nature – with 118 individuals brought to administrative responsibility for their actions.

For the original article from Trend.az, please click here.

The picture of Mr. Aliyev comes courtesy of the same Trend.az website.

Romanian Labor Minister Resigns After Wife Receives Eu Funding

Romania’s Labor Minister, Ioan Botis (pictured above), resigned yesterday (Wednesday the 20th) after it came out on Monday that the NGO that his wife worked for received 500,000 euros in EU grants. Mr. Botis originally stated that he would only resign if the National Agency for Integrity accused him of having a conflict of interest; however, after speaking with Romania’s Prime Minister, Emil Boc, Mr. Botis changed his mind.

Mr. Botis’ wife works as a counselor for an NGO that is based in their home and is paid a monthly salary of 2,000 euros per month. While the EU funds were given out under a program through Mr. Botis’ Labor Ministry, he said that the deal was made in October 2010 through legal channels and that he had no influence over the final decision. He also announced that his wife would be leaving her job.

For more information on the story, please see the Romanian Times and Romanian Insider.

The photo of Mr. Botis also appears on both stories.

Nazarbayev Wins 95% of Vote; Election Monitors Point to Ballot Stuffing

Nursultan Nazarbayev, who has been the President of Kazakhstan since the 1980s, won re-election this Sunday with over 95% of the vote and a voter-turnout rate of more than 90%. International election monitors, such as the OSCE, however, deemed the election to be full of voter intimidation and ballot-stuffing.

Daan Everts, the head of the OSCE’s long-term observation mission stated that We have regrettably to conclude that the elections were not as good as we hoped and expected, as the mission received multiple reports of ballot-stuffing and voter intimidation. Potential voters were furthermore intimidated to vote, which could explain the extremely high voter turnout.

Nazarbayev has claimed in the past that Kazakhstan was a good example of a country where economic reforms could take place before full-blown democracy, as the Central Asian state of just over 16 million has benefitted from large oil reserves and hundred of millions of dollars in foreign direct investment (FDI) in the recent past.

For the original article from Macleans.ca, please click here. Further information was gleaned from the Sun Sentinel and the OSCE‘s website.

The campaign picture shown above comes courtesy of the AFP.

Nazarbayev Appoints Son-In-Law As Head of National Wealth Fund

President Nazarbayev’s son-in-law, Timur Kulibayev (pictued here), was recently appointed to head the state’s national wealth fund after its previous head, Kairat Kelimbetov, was appointed to be the Minister of Economic Development and Trade by President Nazarbayev.

Mr. Kulibayev, who is married to the President’s second-oldest daughter Dinara, made the Forbes World’s Bilionaires list, coming in at the third-wealthiest person in all of Kazakhstan and number 983 in the world. After graduating from Moscow State University in 1988, among other things, Mr. Kulibayev has chaired the boards of various energy firms based in Kazakhstan, served as the President of the national boxing federation, and has chaired the national committee of the World Petroleum Council.

For the original story from Turkish Weekly, please click here.

The picutre of Mr. Kulibayev comes courtesy of Eurasia.org

Kosovar Police Station Commander Sentenced for Accepting Bribes

The Kosovar commander of the police station in Kastriot/Obiliq, Sejdi Zeqiri, was sentenced to 28 months in prison on Wednesday (the 20th) for two counts of sexual abuse, two counts of mistreatment, verbal insults and mistreatment while carrying out his duties, and one count of accepting bribes.

The panel that sentenced Mr. Zeqiri was comprised of two EULEX (the European Union Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo) judges and one local judge. In addition to prison time, Mr. Zeqiri will be prohibited from working in public administration or service for three years.

For the original news brief from SETimes.com, please click here.

Romania’s Anti-Corruption Department to Investigate Mep Adrian Severin

Romania’s Anti-Corruption Department has announced that it will take all possible legal steps in order to investigate the corruption scandal involving MEP Adrian Severin, including stripping him of immunity.

Responding to a MEDIAFAX inquiry, the DNA has announced that the Prosecutor General’s Office and the Ministry of Justice are both looking into the case of Mr. Severin. The initial inquiry into the corruption charges brought about against Mr. Severin first began on March 21st, after national and international media brought the corruption scandal to light.

For the original article from Mediafax, please click here.

The picture of Mr. Severin above also comes from the same story from Mediafax.

Ceca Accepts Plea Bargain

Serbian pop singer Svetlana Ceca Raznatovic, who was originally charged with embezzlement from the Football (soccer) club that she managed as well as with the illegal possession of firearms, agreed to a plea bargain on Monday of this week.

The plea bargain with Ms. Raznatovic, in exchange for pleading guilty to the embezzlement charges, includes a 1.5 million euro fine as well as one year of jail time, which will most likely be spent at her home rather than in a prison.

For the original story from SETimes.com, please click here.

Romanian Union Leader Indicted for Accepting Bribes

Marius Petcu (pictured here) was arrested on suspicions of accepting bribes between September 2009 and March 2011 that amount to almost 342,000 euros, including a villa in the mountain resort town of Predeal, from a businessman who turned out to be an informer.

Mr. Petcu, the leader of the Sanitas union federation, was arrested on March 29th and is being held for the initial 29 days allowed under Romanian law. The Romanian Anti-Corruption Department has also put a hold on his property and finances.

Clickhere for the original stories from Hotnews.ro and Mediafax.ro.

The photo of Mr. Petcu also comes courtesy of Mediafax.

Romanian Media Mogul Threatens Tv Board Members With Death

In a disagreement with the Board of Asesoft (owners of Realitatea TV in Romania) over additions to a management contract, media mogul Sorin Ovidiu Vantu (pictured here) and some of his associates threatened to kill Sebastian Ghita and other members of the Asesoft Board.

Ghita went on to tell Hotnews.ro that negotiations over the contract had not yet been concluded. Mr. Vantu, however, told Pagina de media that Ghita would no longer be the manager of Realitatea TV, that he had decided to end the contract, and that he would make this official in due time.

For the original story from Hotnews.ro, please see the link above.

Georgia’s Ministry of Justice to Share Experience With Kazakhs

A Kazakh delegation from the Ministry of Justice visited their counterparts from Georgia on Wednesday to familiarize themselves with reforms that the Georgian’s implemented in order to combat corruption, crime, and the thievish mentality.

The Georgians shared their experiences with the Kazakh delegation in order to help the Kazakhs with their own reforms. Furthermore, a discussion over the planned and implemented projects put in place to reduce juvenile crime were also discussed by the two delegations.

For the original story, please click here.

The picture of the gavel also comes from the Trend.az site.

Czech President Shuffles Cabinet After Corruption Scandal

The Czech President, Vaclav Klaus, appointed two new cabinet ministers after a corruption scandal involving Public Affairs, the junior partner in the Center-Right coalition, surfaced recently, throwing the Czech government coalition scrambling. The move comes ahead of a vote-of-confidence called by left parties scheduled for next Tuesday, which the government is now confident of winning.

Radek Smerda, the former Deputy Transport Minister, will now replace former Transport Minister Vít Bárta (pictured above), who was at the center of the corruption scandal and also the leader of the Public Affairs Party. The Czech Prime Minister, Petr Necas, originally called for the dismissal of all of Public Affair’s ministers who had ties to the security company ABL, which was once owned by Bárta.

For the original story from Euractiv and Reuters, please click here.

The photo of Mr. Bárta comes from CSOB.CZ

Us Ambassador to Bulgaria Says Bulgarian Justice System Is Corrupt

The US Ambassador to Bulgaria, James Warlick (pictured), said that the Bulgarian judicial system was dishonest, corrupt, and had two sets of standards: one set for the wealthy and powerful and another for the poor and ordinary.

The Ambassador made his comments at a national security and anti-crime conference organized by the George Marshall Association in Bulgaria. Warlick also stated that it was imperative that the Bulgarian government enforce the rule of law, that it end the double standards in judicial proceedings, and that the Interior Ministry make some necessary arrests.

Ambassador Warlick ended his statements by saying that Bulgarian prosecutors needed to be able to gather adequate evidence while, at the same time, respecting the privacy rights of Bulgarian citizens and that Bulgaria should look asset-freezing laws in Germany and Switzerland in order to combat crime.

For the original story from the Sofia Echo, please click here.

The picture of Ambassador Warlick also comes from this Sofia Echo article and is courtesy of Nadezhda Chipeva.

Human Rights Group Criticizes Jailing of Blogger

Egyptian blogger Maikel Nabil (26 – pictured here) was sentenced earlier this week to three years in prison for criticizing military rule, causing an outcry among rights activists both in Egypt and abroad. Mr. Nabil was sentenced last Sunday without his lawyers present, as they were told that the sentencing would take place on Tuesday.

Mr. Nabil was sentenced for writing in his blog that In truth, until now the revolution was achieved by getting rid of the dictator (Mubarak), but dictatorship is still present. Many activists have criticized Egypt’s military council for trying a civilian in a military court, which does not live up to the democratic aspirations of the Egyptian people.

While General Mamdouh Shaheen said that Mr. Nabil would have an opportunity to appeal his sentence, New York-based Human Rights Watch’s Joe Stork, the Middle East Director at HRW, said that Maikel Nabil’s three-year sentence may be the worst strike against free expression in Egypt since the Mubarak government jailed the first blogger for four years in 2007.

For the original story from Reuters, please click here.

Kosovar Mayor Convicted of Extortion

A panel of EULEX judges at the District Court in Pristina found the Mayor of Kacanik, Xhabir Zharku (pictured here), guilty of extortion and illegal arms possession, with the trial having ended last Thursday (the 21st). Mr. Zharku was sentenced to three years of prison and fined a sum of 1,500 euros.

Mr. Zharku, along with his assistant Arsim Kolshi and two co-defendants, were accused of pressuring businessmen to drop out of a privatization process that he and his associates had wanted in on. Mr. Zharku denounced the charges, saying that they were politically motivated.

Mr. Zharku plans to appeal the decision and will be able to remain in office until the outcome of the appeal is reached.

For the original story from SETimes.com, please click here.

The photo of Mr. Zharku comes courtesy of Express Online, with photo credits belonging to Petrit Rrahmani.

Former Egyptian Housing Minister Arrested for Corruption

Ibrahim Soliman, the former Egyptian Housing Minister from 1993-2005 under now-deposed President Hosni Mubarak, has been arrested on charges of corruption. Mr. Soliman came under fire first in 2009 from independent members of the Egyptian parliament for allegedly corrupt real estate deals connected to family members and high-level government officials.

Mr. Soliman is the second former Housing Minister to be questioned over corruption issues, as Ahmed el-Maghrabi is also standing trial for surrounding real estate to Egypt’s second-largest real estate developer, Palm Hills, via a third, foreign comapny supposedly set up solely for this transaction.

The combination of these two arrests augur poorly for the stability of Egyptian real estate countries dating back to the Mubarak era, as the courts ruled last year that a deal with the Talat Moustafa Group (TMG) was illegal.

For the original story from News Daily, (story via Reuters), please click here.

Prosecutor Wants Baryktobasov Jailed for 18 Years

The prosecutor in charge of Kyrgyz opposition leader Urmat Baryktobasov’s (pictured here) case for allegedly trying to illegally overthrow the government, along with 14 other associates, has asked for the maximum jail time – 18 years. Mr. Baryktobasov tried to register as a candidate for the 2005 elections, but was denied because the Election Commission said that he was a Kazakh citizen.

Mr. Baryktobasov was tried in absentia after the 2005 incident and went into hiding. After his most recent arrest, allegedly for having hidden weapons while marching, more than 3,000 people demonstrated in Bishkek’s central square, demanding that Kyrgyz President Rosa Otunbaeva appoint him Prime Minister.

Fore the original story from Radio Free Europe, please click here.

The picture of Mr. Baryktovasov comes courtesy of Reuters.

Commonwealth Games Organiser Arrested in India

The Indian Central Bureau of Investigation confirmed that they had arrested Suresh Kalmadi (pictured here), who was in charge of organizing last year’s Commonwealth Games, which were plagued by scandal. Mr. Kalmadi has been accused of conspiring to favor a Swiss company that provided equipment for the scoring and timing of the events.

Two other Games’ officials were arrested alongside Mr. Kalmadi and were charged with causing a huge loss to the Indian government by overpaying for the equipment (estimated at 1.41 billion rupees ~ $31.29 million) sold by Swiss Timings Ltd, which was available at lower prices from other companies.

For the original story from Bigpondnews.com, please click here.

The picture of Mr. Kalmadi also comes courtesy of Bigpondnews.com

Thousands Join Indian Activist’s Hunger Strike Against Corruption

Prominent Indian activist Anna Hazare (72) began a fast unto death in order to coerce the government to allow civil society to have a say in the adoption of a bill meant to fight against corruption through the creation of an ombudsman. The protests, number in low-thousands, include people from over 400 different cities and towns in India.

Mr. Hazare has stated that if the government does not involve civil society in the drafting process of the ombudsman bill, it will not be democratic, it will be autocratic. Indian President Manmohan Singh said that, while he deeply respects the prominent activist and his cause, he was deeply disappointed by Mr. Hazare’s decision to go through with the planned hunger strike.

For a comprehensive article on the the movement being led by Mr. Hazare, please click here.

Erdogan Rejects Accusations of Pressuring the Media

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan (pictured here), of the Justice and Development Party (AKP), argued at the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) that the independence of the media was not under attack in Turkey despite the recent arrest of 26 journalists, as the Prime Minister noted that the journalists were not arrested for crimes related to their profession.

The PM asked the Council of Europe to send representatives to Turkey in order to assess the situation on the ground for themselves, with CoE Secretary General Thorbjorn Jagland saying that he had accepted the invitation and that This [was] a constructive approach and a move forward in the discussion about media freedom in Turkey.

The PM later went on to state that the journalists were arrested in conjunction with the fight against those who advocate a military coup in Turkey, stating that this was not a problem that European countries faced.

For the original article from SETimes.com, please click here.

The photo of PM Erdogan comes courtesy of Reuters.

Run-Off Elections’ Results in HaiTI Delayed Due to Fraud

Haitian officials, hours before the winners of Haiti’s run-off elections that brought Michel Martelly (pictured here) to power were supposed to take office, delayed the publication of final results amid accusations that at least 18 seats, possibly 19, were tainted by fraud.

The United Nations and other major international donors had expressed concern over 18 of the seats, with Haitian officials adding a possible nineteenth to the count. President-elect Martelly called for an independent probe into the manner to be conducted and for the international community to not recognize the results of the March 20th elections.

For the original story from RJR news, please click here.

an Interview With Antanas Mockus

THE THREE Ms: MOCKUS, MANAGEMENT, AND MIRACLES


Septimius Parvu


How should a Mayor tackle corruption, mobilize the citizenry and fight the drug cartels? Is the rehabilitation of Bogotá a miracle or is it pure management and honesty? These questions have been answered by Antanas Mockus, a two-term mayor of Bogotá, between 1995 – 1997 and 2001-2003, and a former presidential candidate in 2010 (he placed second after Juan Manuel Santos, who won the elections).


R: I was hoping to ask you a few questions about corruption because I find it fascinating how you dealt with the corruption within the greater Bogotá Municipality. My first question is: you said that most of the councilors were corrupt or had connections with all kinds of businessmen. How did you deal with this and enforce your decisions?


A.M: By completely blocking their ability to blackmail, by having the conviction to do so, and by having the team convinced that, if during the three-year term, the councilmen didn’t make any decisions, there would be no agreement. Even if they radically opposed our initiatives, we had to be patient; I imagined that a new council would have been installed after 3 years of blockages, I was sure. So they never risked having any boycotts last longer than three months. And there were times when I pressed with stoic resistance; sometimes I didn’t say anything.

R: And in City Hall? Did you remove the previous public servants, or how did you clean up the municipality?


A.M: One of the first important steps was the stabilization of their work. At the national level, there was a law called carrera administrativa– administrative career – and I could have fired a lot of people and organized an exam, but the time limit was very short, so I decided to trust those people, even if they were working with the Mafia at the time. They belonged to a group. So people had two chiefs, a former one and a real political patron. So I decided to break up the patronage by incorporating these people en masse in the administrative career system.

The other thing was respecting the division of labor ; so, for example, the specialists in law. Each time the council made an agreement, they reviewed it to see if it was legal and constitutional. Everybody was amazed because I did the legality review solely from the point of view of legality, not convenience.

Sometimes, things were very funny. During the elections, a transporter called me and said he had three thousands votes. I told him that I didn’t need them and to let them vote as they want.

Another thing that helped a lot in fighting corruption was a very simple policy, using the general and private secretaries wisely. If someone asked for a meeting, the person was given a card to write with their own handwriting the objectives and topic of the meeting. So, during the meeting I had the card and when people tried to speak to me about other things, I said: “I can give you another appointment tonight or tomorrow morning. I like to prepare my appointments, so I will not speak to you about unprepared matters”. So, no one has ever written that they needed a contract or something else.

When we were children we were taught that God sees us everywhere. Today we have cameras.

R: You used cameras when you had meetings?


A.M: We did that once, for people. When we went to various localities, we connected to the local television networks. We did that in the mayor’s office once, but it was more about practicing how to speak about your enemy, your rival, in a way that the other listens to what you have to say. It was not meant to be too offensive. It was, to rephrase it, about saying “don’t ask me or offer me things in private that you would not ask or offer in public”. It’s a precaution.

R: You oversaw a lot of urban changes. How did you manage to do that? In Bucharest we have a problem because a great part of the land is owned by influential businessmen or by people with connections.


A.M: One thing was applying the law literally, and I remember a very rich person demanding a meeting with me. During the meeting, even in the paper, he said that he would like to discuss restrictions – he had to build high structures, a hotel. It’s called Casa Medina, and instead of building it high, he would have to buy all of the houses in the surrounding area and arrange them respecting the external appearance, because of patrimony. And when we met I said that there was a patrimony committee; I said: you cannot imagine how they would look at me, asking them to do this favor for you. Perhaps I lost his support, but I think he understood the arguments that I made. It’s an independent expert commission… the decision to keep or destroy is a very delicate question, arbitrary, because, at a certain point, he wanted to insinuate that I was the committee or a committee member and I said that I was not.

Society has high division of labor. Many times I used my metaphor of a circus in order to defend the division of labor. There were tigers, in a big cage, and the notary said: “I will not marry you, the circus yes, but not the tigers”. And I said: “we will have two specialists in managing the tigers and we have to trust them, because it will be an example of division of labor”. So let the decision be made by the experts.

Ukrainian Government Ministers Richest in the World

Sonia Koshkina, considered to be one of Ukraine’s leading journalists, has accused the Ukrainian government of being a de facto plutocracy, with the 16-member cabinet claiming at least 5 multi-millionaires and one billionaire. While this is common knowledge in Ukraine, government officials still find ways to avoid publicly reporting all of their financial assets.

Ms. Koshkina, whose real name is Ksenia Vasilenko, who was speaking on behalf of online media site lb.ua, disclosed these details at an event in Brussels organized by the EU-Ukraine Business Council.

While Ukrainian diplomats were among those in attendance, they did not seem to be all that surprised by the disclosure, while many Western European attendants seemed to be shocked both by the information and the lack of any attempt to counter or explain those claims on the part of the Ukrainian diplomats.

For the original article from Euractiv.com, please click here.

European Parliament Opens Its Doors (Somewhat) to Olaf

The European Parliament admitted yesterday that it is within the purview of the Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) to investigate the matter of corruption among MEPs that was brought to light by The Sunday Times. However, the EP also insisted that a mandate from a national judicial authority in the absence of a European public prosecutor, which Slovenia and Austria have already begun to do.

The Conference of Presidents backed a proposal by Parliamentary President Jerzy Buzek to provide OLAF with emails from The Sunday Times journalists, detailing the ongoings between the fake lobbyists and various MEPs.

Before the meeting with the Conference of Presidents, Mr. Buzek circulated a letter suggesting possible measures to combat the consequences of disappointing behaviour on the part of some of our colleagues. He also tabled other suggestions in order to regulate outside lobbying.

For the original article from Euractiv.com, please click here.