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.

Former Indonesian Home Affairs Minister Arrested for Corruption

Hari Sabarno is the second former Indonesian minister to be arrested this week, evidence that the Indonesian government’s promises to crackdown on corruption should be taken seriously.

Mr. Sabarno was the former Home Affairs Minister between 2001 and 2005, is being tried for signing the procurement orders for regional fire trucks, which he denies. He allegedly misspent an estimated $9.78 m on procurement contracts for fire trucks. The two companies that benefited from these contracts, PT Istana Sarana Raya and PT Satal Nusantara, are both owned by the same man, Hengky Samuel Daud.

While Hari is also a former general, he will not be tried in a military court, but a corruption court, although he has requested legal help from the Indonesian Military legal unit (TNI).

For the full story, please click here.

Contest: Severin/out

The Alliance for Clean Romania (ACR) launched a contest for the best sketch of the monument commemorating Adrian Severin, author of the realkoruption doctrine and victim of a anti-European, anti-Romanian and anti-Severin conspiracy.

Starting today ACR will publish the drawings or models from the readers. An international jury will select the best, which will be sent to the European Parliament. A delegation will travel to Place Luxembourg in Brussels to discuss details related to where the monument should be placed exactly.

Right Click below and download the posters received so far on your computer at full size:

As Adrian Severin chooses to resist longer to the unanimous requests for resignation, the more time you have to practice your creativity and solidarity. Thanks to Dan Flores in Predeal who sent the first proposal. We look forward to receiving yours at contact@romaniacurata.ro, Please, mark the message subject line as ‘Monument for Adrian Severin’.

Germany Paid for Uzbek Military Base While Sanctions Were Ongoing

While the EU had placed sanctions on Uzbekistan for the 2005 massacre in Andijon, the German government continued to lease a military base in the country, one of the most oppressive regimes in the world, according to Paul Schäfer of The Left Party (Die Linke).

Between 2005 and 2009, the German government paid a total of € 67.9 m ($95.5 m) to the Uzbek, according to documents recently released by the German Parliament (Bundestag) due to a December 2010 request by 3 members of The Left Party (Paul Schäfer, Jan van Aken, and Sevim Dagdelen).

Dagdelen responded that this new information would only further her party’s stance against German involvement in Afghanistan.

For the original article from Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty, click here.

The photo comes courtesy of Reuters.

Embezzlement Case Against Bulgarian Businessman Begins

The fraud and embezzlement case against Bulgarian bussinessman, Hristo Kovachki, began in a Sofia courtroom today. Kovachki is charged with embezzling 16.7 m leva ($12.03 m) from value-added tax (VAT) refunds.

Kovachki, whose business interests run the gamut from banking and insurance to mining and energy, is accused of selling hardware equipment to his own companies and pocketing the VAT from the transactions. The scheme occurred during two periods, the first between February 14th, 2005 through September 14th, 2006, with the second period running from October 16th, 2006 through July 14th, 2008.

The official investigation into Mr. Kovachki’s business affaris began at the end of October 2008.

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

Photo by: Tsvetelina Beloutova

Spanish Mep Caught Favoring Pretty Lobbyist As Part of Sunday Times Scandal

Another MEP has been caught up in the scandal surrounding several MEPs after a Sunday Times team caught Spanish MEP Pablo Zalba Bidegain admitting that the reporter was very attractive.

Mr. Zalba Bidegain was adament, however, that he received no form of payment from the Sunday Times team, even stating that he refused offers to becom a member of the board of their fake group and cash for the introduction of the amendment. The former businessman furthermore stated that I voted the way I voted because I thought I was making the law better. Some people want to make a story out of nothing […] I accepted no money or favours.

The piece of legislation that Mr. Zalba Bidegain introduced was intended to introduce compensation for investors in case of fraud, which Mr. Zalba Bidegain stood behind.

To add further embarassment to Spain, while Mr. Zalba Bidegain was the only Spanish MEP to be engaged in the ongoing scandal, Spanish daily El Mundo reported that this was not due to moral integrity of Spanish MEPs, rather it was due to the fact that none of the other Spanish MEPs had good enough English-language skills to make a lobbying proposition possible.

To read the original story from Euractiv.com, please click here.

The photo of Mr. Bidegain is from his MEP profile.

Croatian Businessman Arrested for Suspected Corruption

Bojan Milković, CEO of INA Industrija Nafta DD (INARA), was arrested on the 25th and ordered to be held in jail for 30 days on suspicion of corruption during his time at Crosco d.d., a subsidiary of INA.

The request for Mr. Milković’s arrest came from the Croatian Office for the Suppression of Corruption and Organized Crime (OSCOC) and is under investigation for activities that he undertook between 2002 and 2009, none of which is related to his current position. According to the OSCOC, Mr. Milković is accused of accepting bribes.

INA, which is the fourth largest employer in Croatia, pledged to assist in the investigation in any way possible. for the original story from Bloomberg News, please click here.

The photo of Mr. Milković is taken from INA’s web page.

Former Afghan Minister Arrested for Corruption

Enayatullah Qasimi, the former Transport Minister of Afghanistan, was arrested recently for suspicion of corruption in two separate cases dating back to 2004. When combined, the two cases against Mr. Qasimi total around $12m.

The first of the corruption cases against the former minister are connected to the purchase of six airplanes. While no details were given surrounding the case by the Attorney General’s spokesman, Amanullah Iman, he is accused of abuse of power that led to the loss of $9m in government funds.

The second case against Mr. Qasimi has to do with a consulting fee totaling $3m while trying to help state-backed Ariana Airlines.

As mentioend above, rampant corruption is a massive problem in Afghanistan, which has resulted in the reduction of aid money from various donors, including the United States (~$4b) and the United Kingdom (~$140m).

For the original article from Earthtimes.org, please click here.

Adrian Severin Resigns from Social Democratic Party

While still resisting pressure to resign from his European Parliament (EP) post, MEP (Romania) Adrian Severin has resigned from the Social Democratic Party. Victor Ponta, the party leader, had threatened Mr. Severin with being expelled from the party if he did not resign himself.

As mentioned last week, Mr. Severin was caught by journalists from the British newspaper The Sunday Times, along with two other MEPs (Ernst Strasser – Austria and Zoran Thaler – Slovenia), who were supposedly willing to sell their services by supporting amendments to legislation for up to €100,000. Severin has denied any wrongdoing, however, and has refused to give up his seat in the EP.

According to a statement on their website, the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) is updated with the information published in the Sunday Times. We evaluate the information to see if an investigation in this case is in our area of expertise.

Mr. Severin reportedl had 5 meetings in total with the journalists, although he had previously declined to introduce a previous amendment concerning waste storage. According to Mr. Severin, I committed nothing illegal and these allegations are false.

While Ernst Strasser and Zoran Thaler have resigned from all of their mandates, in order to clear their names without putting pressure on themselves, Mr. Severin has refused to do so.

For the original story from Romania-insider.com, please click here. Further information for this story was obtained from here.

The photo of Mr. Severin comes from the first link above.

Leader of Pakistani Party Criticizes Use of Blood Money

Raymond Davis, the CIA security contractor who admitted to killing two Pakistani men in Lahore, was set free after paying blood money to the families of the victims.

Imran Khan, the leader of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (Pakistan Movement for Justice), denounced the act and said that the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) had a ‘tacit understanding’ and it was through their joint strategy that Davis was finally released.1

The U.S. government argued, however, that Mr. Davis had diplomatic immunity and should not have been charged with any crime.

Under Islamic compensation law, blood money is an acceptable way to one’s debt, according to the court in Lahore that ordered that Davis be set free. However, there are also accusations that the family’s of the dead men are currently being held captive, with an order by the Justice Chaudhry Iftikhar Hussain to the chief of police to present the familes to the court.

For the original story by the Gulf Times, please click here.

1: Gulf Times article

The photo of Raymond Davis is from Newsinus.us

Serbian Celebrity Charged With Embezzlement

Serbian prosecutors charged Serbian diva Svetlana Ceca Raznatovic with embezzlement. She is accused of misappropriating millions of euros from the sale of football players from Obilic to foreign football clubs.

She is also accused of possessing illegal firearms found at her home. The investigation against Ms. Raznatovic concerning the charges of embezzlement began in April 2003.

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

Indian Opposition Turns up Heat on Pm over Cash-For-Votes Scam

Following allegations of bribing MPs for a 2008 vote-of-confidence, The Left and BJP in India have slammed PM Singh over denying the charges.

As discussed earlier on this site, Mr. Singh’s Congress Party is already having trouble with over corruption scandals, including licenses for telecom companies and lawmakers acquiring apartments intended for war widows. In his March 18th statement, PM Manmohan Singh dismissed the charges in the Wikileaks cable as speculative, unverified and unverifiable.

Gurudas Dasgupta (pictured above), the leader of the Communist Party of India (CPI), sparked the debate in the Lok Sabha, the Lower House of Parliament, claiming that a house committe in 2008 had stated that allegations over the alleged scheme needed to be appropriate investigated further. He later went on to imply that important businessman had prevented the proper authorities (the Central Bureau of Investigation, the Enforcement Directorate, or the Income Tax Department) from carrying out the necessary investigative work so as to remain anonymous.

When PM Singh retorted that voters had sided with him in his re-election bid, Dasgupta replied that Over-emphasizing the poll verdict by the PM has not brought honors to him. I suppose there is a tendency to propound a dangerious theory that might is right.

Verbal retorts continued to fly from the opposition, with the PM expected to answer at least some of the allegations sometime today.

For the original story from Yahoo! news, please click here.

Haitian Elections Marred by Fraud

Up to 14 percent of the ballots for the second round run-off between popular singer Michel Martelly and former first lady Mirlande Manigat may have been tampered with, according to the election commission’s figures.

Over 1,500 tally sheets were put aside while awaiting a final decision on their validity because they were “visibly fraudulent”, according to Widmack Matador, the head of the Provisional Electoral Council.

The first round of elections were also marred by fraud, forcing the hand-picked successor of President Rene Preval, Jude Celestin, to back out of the race, allowing Martelly to run instead.

The electoral commission delayed the release of the provision results to April 4th, with the final results coming in by April 16th.

For the original story from Yahoo!, please click here.

Pictured above is former President Rene Preval

Romanian Emp Accused of Corruption; Must Quit Socialist Party

Romanian MEP, Adrian Severin, was caught offering to sell his vote to a pair of journalists posing as lobbyists.

A British daily, The Sunday Times, reported that three EMPs, including EMP Adrian Severin, were caught asking for up to €100,000 for a vote. The EP has since decided to launch an investigation into the matter, while anti-corruption prosecutors in Romania promising to do the same.

This is not the end of the matter, however, for Mr. Severin, as the Romanian National Integrity Agency is also in the process of verifying his income, although a spokesman declined to state whether the inquiry was initiated before or after the scandal recently erupted, while Mr. Severin has stated that there is no relation between recent accusations and National Integrity Agency’s investigation.

The leader of the Social Democratic Party, Victor Ponta, to which Mr. Severin is a part of, has declared that Mr. Severin must quit the party, otherwise he will initiate an exclusion procedure against him. He are three most important statements made by Mr. Ponta:

  • Adrian Severin made a mistake and he needs to be accountable for it, things are clear I wish the EP would establish any other type of responsibility, other than political

  • If Adrian Severin is to be found not guilty, I will apologize

  • PSD will follow the decisions of European Socialists and the Socialists group in the EP Severin is not the victim of a conspiracy but a victim of his mistakes.

The following articles were used to write this summary:

Hotnews.ro,

(2) Hotnews.ro,

(3) Hotnews.ro

The photo of Mr. Severin is from his Wikipedia page

Mep Calls for the End of Side Jobs for Meps

Monica Macovei, an MEP from Romania and a leading anti-corruption campaigner, has called for an end of MEPs holding additional jobs alongside their MEP duties. While MEPs must list any paid positions, Ms. Macovei argues that this not enough, citing the ongoing scandal involving 3 MEPs, including Adrian Severin, also from Romania.

In a telephone interview with EUobserver.com, Macovei said that:

MEPs have five years in the European parliament to legislate for EU citizens. It’s a full-time job and I don’t see why they should have another one in parallel, Macovei said.

We have salaries, we are paid to do this, added the former Romanian minister of justice (2004-2007) who won international plaudits for her efforts to root out high level corruption, including when cabinet colleagues were implicated.

Parliamentary spokesman Jaume Duch said that An MEP who speaks in a meeting of a parliamentary body on a subject in which they have a direct financial interest must declare that interest orally at that point. Macovei responded, however, that this was not enough.

For the original story from EUobserver.com, see the link above.

Hungarian Mp Suspects Shady Deal in Off-Shore Procurement Deal

Hungarian MP Gábor Schering (Politics Can Be Different – LMP) is calling for the government to impose restrictions on offshore companies participating in public tenders after a company register in Cyprus won an Ft 2 billion ($10.6 million) contract with the Hungarian Postal Service (Magyar Posta).

MP Schering, via the LMP, opined that the Cypriot company had been involved in shady deals in the past and that it was unacceptable that a closed tender procedure with only one bidder be awarded to an offshore company. Furthermore, Mr. Schering further speculated that Magyar Posta executives had been cozying up to the company.

The LMP member went on to state that the Socialists and Fidesz have a history of such murky deals, as in the past both parties have profited from such relationships.

For the original article, please click here.

U.K. Bribery Act Will Take Effect in July

The U.K. Bribery Act, which was delayed multiple times, will go into effect starting in July of this year. The Act is the first change to the U.K.’s bribery laws in more than a century and is intended to tighten the U.K.’s regulatory framework.

The Act is rather broad, extending to any company that has an office in the UK, employs UK citizens, or provides any services to a U.K. organization. Furthermore, the Act carries unlimited fines and a maximum jail sentence of 10 years.

For the original article, which goes through the new law from a U.S. perspective, please click here.

The picture shown above comes the U.K’s Government Legal Services webpage.

Upcoming Kazakh Elections Marred by Bad Laws

The upcoming Kazakh national elections (Apr. 3rd) are not very likely to be rated free or fair due to a number of laws restricting press freedom and ability to run for office.

This should not come as a surprise, however, as the Central Asian country has never held an election deemed to be free and fair by international observers. President Nazarbayev (70), who has ruled the country since Soviet times, enjoys widespread public support, as evidenced by his lack of a campaign so close to the elections. While he has three opponents running against him, none have publicly criticized his policies.

While Pres. Nazarbayev oversaw market reforms that led to $150 billion in foreign investments in a country of 16.4 million, he has not allowed any hint of an opposition to form in Kazakhstan, strictly limited the freedom of speech.

Of the original 22 candidates who had initially come forward to challenge the President in the upcoming national elections, 5 failed the language test required to run for the office in Kazakhstan, 4 did not take the test, and 5 more withdrew before the registration deadline. According to the ODIHR (Office of Democratic Instutions and Human Rights – the election monitoring arm of the OSCE). Furthermore, how the test’s results are determined is unclear.

For the original article from sharenet (reporting from Reuters), please click here.

Corruption Rose Last Year Says Kosovo’s Anti-Corruption Agency

Corruption rose last year says Kovoso’s Anti-Corruption Agency, costing the Kosovar economy some €10m.

The report, released on the 24th of this month, stated that corruption was prevalent in all levels of Kosovar society, especially in public enterprises, central and local governments, and the courts.

The head of the agency, Hasan Preteni, stated that senior state officials and both current and former ministers were also guilty of corruption in the past year alone.

For the original news brief, please see the SETimes article here.

Indian Spiritual Leader Denounces Corrupt Indian Government

Swami Ramdev criticized the state of Indian democracy at a recent meeting set up by the Goa Chamber of Commerce, claiming that Indian democracy is rife with corruption at all levels.

Swami Ramdev’s main complain was what he called the misuse of the Land Acquisition Act, saying that “(the) Land Acquisition Act is being misused. The government is unnecessarily harassing its own people by grabbing their land. The main crux of the grim scenario is our corrupt democratic political system wherein corrupt politicians go scot-free and innocent are punished”.

While speaking to 50 business leaders, Swami Ramdev riled against foreign mining companies, who were being awarded land via governmental misuse of the Land Acquisition Act, and were subsequently polluting local environments and stealing land away from the people, stating that Goans were specifically being cheated by their politicians.

For the original news story, please click here.

Kyrgyz Government to Open Investigation over Alleged Corruption in Megacom

Kyrgyz President Roza Otunbayeva, successor to the deposed Kurmanbek Bakayev, has decided to create a special investigation team to research alleged financial misdeeds at the country’s largest communications services provider, Megacom.

MegaCom, whose majority shareholder is the Russian firm Eventis Telecom, is currently being run be Telecom’s representative Andrei Silich, who fled Kyrgyzstan in January before a criminal investigation over embezzlement was begun. According to Silich, the case against him has since been dropped, allowing him to come back to MegaCom.

The Kyrgyz government’s appointed supervisor of MegaCom, Azamat Murzaliev, claims that the Kyrgyz financial police have evidence that Silich embezzled $3 million from MegaCom’s abroad. Furthermore, Murzaliev claimed that Silich forced himself back into power after returning to Kyrgyzstan. A parliamentary deputy, Iskhak Pirmatov (Respublika Party), stated that a parliamentary investigation revealed that Eventis Telecom had taken over $27 million from MegaCom since April 2010.

The problems between Eventis Telecom and MegaCom have not escaped the scrutiny of the Russian Duma, either, as Aleksei Ostrovsky and Semyon Bagdasarov, deputies in the Duma, stated that the campaign led by Kyrgyz Deputy Prime Minister Omurbek Babanov to deprive Russian businessmen of their [stake in MegaCom] is having a negative impact on Russian-Kyrgyz relations.

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

The picture of Roza Otunbayeva is property of The Telegraph in the UK

Indian Pm Denies Government Bought Parliamentary Votes

Another Wikileaks-based scandal errupted in India, with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh denying that his government bribed lawmakers in a vote-of-confidence in 2008.

The scandal over cash-for-votes is just one more problem that the Indian PM must deal with, as other scandals concerning graft over licenses for telecom companies and apartments for war-widows going to lawmakers embroil Mr. Singh. The latest allegations emerged when an American diplomatic cable detailing the alleged bribery was released by Wikileaks. The Indian parliamentary opposition forced an early adjournment for a few hours on Friday and demanded that PM Singh resign his post.

According to Reuters, the scandal is not likely to result in PM Singh’s resignation, especially given that the allegations are so old. However, Mr. Singh’s reputation as an honest elder statesman has been tarnished. The diplomatic cable stated that that four lawmakers of a regional party had been paid 100 million rupees (1.37 million pounds) each to secure their support in the vote, which Singh won.

The original story from Reuters can be found here.

Protesters in Zagreb Call for the Government to Resign

Several thousand people protested the current government in the Croatian capital of Zagreb on Saturday, demanding that the government, headed by the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ), hold early elections rather than by the end of the year, as promised.

The protests started on February 22nd, and, as seems to be the common thread in social upheaval this year, they were organized via social networking platforms such as Facebook. The protesters, who blocked traffic in the center of the city for 3 hours, made a stop at the agriculture ministry to show support for the country’s farmers, who have been rallying in regions throughout Croatia to demand subsidies from the state.

While over 1,000 police were deployed through Zagreb on Saturday, there were no reports of violence by the pensioners, students, workers, and young people said to make up the majority of the protesters, who threatened a general strike if their demands for early elections were not met. The government of Prime Minsiter Kosor planned on holding elections by the end of this year and is resisting holding early elections because they would supposedly damage Croatia’s chances of joining the European Union, as the talks in the final phases.

Prime Minister Kosor, who took over power from Ivo Sanader (also from the HdZ) when he was arrested in Austria in 2009 on suspicion of corruption, has also been plagued by the very same accusations. While Kosor has stepped up anti-corruption measures, the HDZ itself is seen as the source of many of the country’s corruption issues.

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

The picture comes from europost.bg

Kurdish Leader Calls for Reforms in Kurdistan

Massud Barzani, the regional President of the autonomous region of Kurdistan in Iraq, called for various reforms today after protests against nepotism, corruption, and the stranglehold that the two main parties have over Kurdish politics.

Barzani asked for the creation of an integrity commission in order to check corruption and nepotism in public life as well as asking the parliament to schedule early elections. While the rest of Iraq had parliamentary elections in January 2009, the autonomous region of Kurdistan, which is comprised of 3 provinces, did not.

Mr. Barzani hinted at other reforms as well, including his insistence that media organizations and political parties declare where their funding comes from and that the selling of corporate stock should be more equitable, suggesting that only the wealthy and well-connected are able to buy stock in successful companies. Lastly, he stated that oil and gas contracts should be dealt with in a more transparent manner, as his party (the Kurdish Democratic Party) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan of President Jalal Talabani have ran the wealthy and oil-rich region for much of the past.

Mr. Barzani himself, however, has not escaped the ongoing protests throughout the Middle East region, as the oppositioon has collected 50,000 signatures calling for his resignation, with demonstrations in Sulaimaniyah last month resulting in 3 deaths, which were then followed by nearly-daily demonstrations.

For the original article from France24.com, please click here.

The photo of Massud Barzani comes from Time Magazine