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

Jamaican Religious Leader Urges Stand Against Government Corruption

Reverend Courtney Richards railed against the government’s Manatt-Dudus Commission of Enquiry and the close relationship between Prime Minister Golding and the alleged drug dealer, Christopher Dudus Coke.

While Rev. Richards warned that people throughout the country were wary of the results of the Commission because, as he said it, politicians’ answers only seemed to confirm political lines rather than the truth, his larger message was one of moral decay.

(The Manatt-Dudus Commission of Enquiry has to do with the hiring of a US law firm to aid the Jamaican government in negotiations over the extradition of Christopher Dudus Coke, a friend of Prime Minister Golding, for crimes related to drug smuggling.)

Rev. Richards went on to attack the seemingly no-nothing stance of Justice Minister Dorothy Lightbourne and National Security Minister Dwight Nelson, who stated I can’t recall on multiple occasions. Rev. Richards went on to say that there were only two options open to Jamaica: revolution or (religious) revival.

For the original article from Jamaica-gleaner.com, please click here. For more background information on the Manatt-Dudus Commission of Enquiry, please click here.

The photo of the Rev. Richards comes from the website of an organization that he is the director of.

World Bank Releases Report on Crime and Security in Eastern Europe and Central Asia

The World Bank Group recently made a 2010 report by Mohammad Amin public that surveys Eastern European and Central Asian business on the costs of security and crime. Corruption, on average, is estimated to cost about 0.1% of yearly revenue for those businesses surveyed in the report.

One of the more interesting findings in the report was that higher-income countries do not have more crime-related problems when compared to lower-income countries. However, even though larger firms are more prone to being the victims of crime, smaller firms lose proportionately more revenue from crime than larger firms as a percentage of income from sales.

For a link to the PDF version of the report, please click here.

The map of Eastern Europe and Central Asia comes from the website of the International Association of Microfinance Investors.

Students Payed Thousands to Have Their Language Entrance Exams Scores Altered

3 foreign students admitted to paying an undisclosed person thousands of dollars in order to change their English-language test scores in order to gain residency permits in Australia.

The students admitted to paying a bribe while testifying before the Western Australian Corruption and Crime Commission (CCC). Harinder Jit, an Indian national, stated that he had paid $2,500 in 2009 in order to achieve a score of 7 on the International English Language Testing System, a test meant to ascertain one’s level of proficiency in the English language. He later paid an additional $3,200 in order to bump up his wife’s score to an 8, with the couply having since applied for permanent residency in Australia.

Mr. Jit, who had previously taken the exam at Edith Cowan University, failed to receive his desired score; he was told by a co-worker that, if he took the exam at Curtin University of Technology, that he could pay an undisclosed person to change the score to an adequate grade.

Another student, Rikenkumar Vaishnani, paid $11,000 to have his score changed in 2010 because he felt that it was what he needed to do, even though he was second-guessing his actions at the time. A third student, Vishnal Pandya, who had failed the test multiple times both in India and in Australia paid $1,500 to have his score changed. Mr. Pandya also said that he knew of several friends who had done the same thing.

For the original article from SBS.com.au, please click here.

The photo comes from onetip.net

Indonesia’s President Considers Wikileaks Attack to Be Character Assassination

American diplomatic cables realeased via Wikileaks that accused Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono of bribery, intimidation, and self-enrichment were picked up recently by several Australian newspapers.

Those newspapers, the Sydnew Morning Herald and The Age, both reported that it was President Obama who canceled the planned phone call and that the US envoy to Indonesia, Scot Marciel, was hauled in before the Foreign Minister, Marty Natalegawa, to receive a strong protest. However, President Yudhoyono was not the only one mentioned in the cables, as his wife was also told to have personally benefitted from her status as First Lady.

While an Indonesian spokesman for President Yudhoyono, Teuku Faizasyah, played down the significance of the cancelled phone call, US-Indonesian relations have not been exactly great as of late, seeing as President Obama’s last trip to Indonesia did not end in any tangible results.

Burhanudin Muhtadi, an analyst with the political consultancy LSI, said that SBY sees himself as an international darling,” he said. ”He is very upset that the US embassy in Indonesia was spying on him and reporting in such an improper and unhappy manner.”

The stories from the two Australian newspaper are linked above.

Yanukovych Urges Parliament to Consider Anti-Corrutpion and Deregulation Bills

Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych has urged the Verkhovna Rada, the Ukrainian parliament, to consider bills dealing with anti-corruption measures and the deregulation and liberalization of the national economy.

President Yanukovych stated that the passing of the anti-corruption bill was necessary because Without combating corruption, we cannot make any progress in the development of the country. He has thus far asked that Deputy Prime Minister and Economic Development and Trade Minister Andriy Kliuyev to write government resolutions on regulatory policy liberation.

President Yanukovych said that officials in various levels of government were already putting up levels of resistance,

The original story can be found here.

Iraqi National Development Programs Get $600 Million Investment from from Un

Three different United Nations agencies have agreed to invest $600 million into Iraqi National Development Programs in order to support their development.

UNICEF (United Nation’s Children Fund), UNDP (United Nation’s Development Program), and the UNFPA (United Nations Population Fund agreed to the deal with the Iraqi government so that

Activities will be undertaken to build the Government of Iraq’s capacity to deliver essential services to those most in need, create employment opportunities, and strengthen mechanisms to improve governance and protect the fundamental rights of all citizens, said Christine McNab, the Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General to Iraq.

One of the beneficiaries of these funds will be the Iraqi Commission of Integrity, whose job it is to fight corruption. Furthermore, other governance-related programs will be funded, such as programs to support the establishment of a human rights commission, support rule of law initiatives that support an independent judiciary, and increase access to justice for women and children.

The original story from Newsblaze.com can be found here.

Protest in Indonesia over Claims of Corruption

Neither Indonesia’s independent anti-corruption watchdog, the Corruption Eradication Commission, nor Indonesia’s leading anti-corruption NGO, Indonesia Corruption Watch, feel that claims published in two Australian newspapers (The Age and The Sydney Morning, for those stories, see story from March 14th on this site), via information leaked from US diplomatic cables, were credible enough to warrant further investigation.

This conclusion was drawn after several mistakes were found in the documents by Indonesian Corruption Watch, such as the claim that President Yudhoyono had asked Hendarman Supandji to cease a corruption probe into political insider Taufik Kiemas, which did not make sense seeing as Mr. Supandji was not the Assistant Attorney General at the time, as claimed in the cables.

While the President has denied all of the allegations that appeared in the cables, the Association of Advocates for People launched legal action in a Jakarta Court against the US government and both Australian newspapers, seeking $1 billion (US) in damages.

For The Age‘s take on this story, please click here.

Picture copyright of Indonesia Corruption Watch

Police Probe Into Faked Indian Air Licenses

Following up on an earlier post on this site this week, one of the Indian pilots recently arrested for obtaining a flying license by forging documents has begun naming his source – allegedly have paid between Rs 10-12 Lakhs for the documents (1 Lakh = $2,564).

Within the last week, Indian authorities have arresed Parminder Kaur Gulatie (38) of Indigo airlines and Jitender Kishen Verma (46) of Air India. While two other suspects remain on the loose (Meenakshi Seghal of Indigo airlines and Swaran Singh Talwar of MDLR), Indian authorities have already begun an investigation of between 3,000 and 4,000 other Indian pilots to ensure that no other fraud occurred.

Indian authorities have not ruled out the possibility that employees of the DGCA (Directorate-General of Civil Aviation) are involved in the scheme, although, as of now, nothing against any DGCA employees has come to light.

For the original story from Yahoo news India, click here.

Indian Mp Alleges That Oil Company Attempted to Bribe Him

An Indian MP from the Lower House (Lok Sabha) alleged that representatives of Cairn India Limited, a leader in the oil and gas industry in India, offered him a bribe.

Kikrambhai Arjanbhai Maadam alleged during the opening of the Lok Sabha that he was offered a bribe by Cairn India Limited, and then threatened once he turned down the bribe, saying that

The corporate mafia reached my home and tried to bribe me. They later threatened me with dire consequences in the presence of the District Collector and Superintendent of Police.

Maadam had been leading farmer’s protests in the region for months because the farmers felt that there had been discrepancies in the compensation being paid to them for their land, which would be used to for a pipeline project.

Maadam demanded that the officials who approached him be dismissed, while representatives of several Indian parties in the Lok Sabha have come out in support of him. Furthermore, the Speaker, Meira Kumar, promised to consider the situation.

The original story from Lookout India can be found here.

Cairn India Limited’s logo is under their coppyright.

11 Arrested in Oil Smuggling Scheme in Albania

Police in Albania arrested 11 officials connected to an oil smuggling scheme last Friday, with both political parties in Albania rushing to connect the other ahead of the May 8th elections.

According to the Transparency International representative in Albania, Lufti Dervishi, this scandal is proof that governmental organizations in Albania simply do not work, as this should have been detected by fuel quality inspectors (as the scheme involved selling crude oil as high-end imported diesel between 2007 and 2009), the tax office, custorms, or the police.

While former Energy Minister Dritan Prifti hinted at the fraud last year, it has taken quite a while for the police to build a case against the suspects. Furthermore, in reaction to opposition claims (the Socialist Party) that the ruling party (the Democratic Party) was in on the scheme, the Finance Ministry that they had begun investigating the scheme as far back as 2008.

For the original version of the story, please see the SETimes articles here and here.

The Transparency International Logo is property of Transparency International

American Businessman Sentenced to 15 Years in Prison in Absentia in Kyrgyzstan

According to the Associated Press, A court has sentenced an American businessman to 15 years in jail in absentia for selling a fuel depot in Kyrgyzstan to a U.S. company at $3 million below the market rate.

The businessman, Eugene Gourevich, consulted the previous government under Kurmanbek Bakiyev and facilitated the sale of the fuel depot before Mr. Bakiyev was overthrown last year. It is believed that Mr. Bakiyev’s family profited from the sale of the fuel depot and the generally opaque deals with the U.S. air base strategically locagted in Kyrgyzstan, which is used as a transportation and refueling hub for the U.S. military in Afghanistan.

For the original story from the Associated Press, please click here.

Iraqi’s Protest Against Unemployment, Corruption, and Poor Public Services

Following up on protests from late February where thousands protested against the current government in a nod to the trend seen throughout the Arab world, hundreds of Iraqi’s protested recently against the Al-Maliki government.

Many of the protesters had red-painted index fingers, a reference to the ink used in order to show that a person had voted in the election. It took the current government 9 months to form a coalition and yet several key cabinet positions, including the Ministries of defense, interior, and planning, remain unfilled.

Many of the protestors decried the lack of basic public services in Iraq nearly 7 years after the removal of Saddam Hussein from power. Issues such as the proliferation of corruption in the public sector and lack of employment opportunities are among the issues that repeatedly come up from the protestors.

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

Kyrgyz Mp Vows to Resign if Corruption Is Proven

Irkhak Pirmatov, a Kyrgyz MP of the Respublika party, vowed to resign from his post if Omurbek Tekebaev, the former speaker of the Kyrgyz Parliament, could prove his allegations surrounding Pirmatov’s time as the head of the Kyrgyz oil and gas company. If not, Pirmatov vowed to strip Tekebaev of his parliamentary immunity and have him prosecuted.

Tekebaev accused Pirmatov of overcharging for the drilling of a well, which cost $4 million, by up to $15 million on national television yesterday. Pirmatov responded by saying that nothing was charged to the public for the installation of the drilling rig and the allegations were baseless. He retorted that he thought that he would be praised for the deal, as he thought that it would be considered beneficial to the Kyrgyz state.

The full article can be found here

Ukrainian Officials Have Received over €1 Million in Bribes This Year Alone

Acting Chief of the Interior Ministry’s Main Department for Combating Organized Crime, Eduard Fedosov, reported that Ukrainian officials have already collected more than €1.1 million (12.62 Ukrainian Hr) in bribes this year alone.

Furthermore, the average bribe amounted to more than €16,100.00 (177,000 Ukrainian Hr), with the largest single bribe amounting to more than €728,000.00 (8 million Ukrainian Hr). Lastly, Mr. Fedosov estimated that somewhere between 30% and 40% of bribery cases have already reached Ukrainian courts.

Read more here

Junior Judge Sacked for Embezzlement

Denitsa Ouroumova, the daughter of Supreme Administrative Court judge Nikolai Uroumov, held a junior judge position in the Blagoevgrad District Court until she was fired, mediapool.bg reported today. While Ms. Ouroumova is the first magistrate to lose their job over the real estate scandal in Primorsko, a resort town on the Black Sea, she is by no means the only casualty of the affair.

Ms. Ouroumova allegedly misrepresented her financial status, as the beachfront property had been allotted to the poor. Those who were illegally given permission to build on the property, as building on property requires that one be a registered resident of the city for 5 years – and none were, are not the only ones under investion: the public officials that issues the illegal permits are also being investigated.

You can read more about the story here.

Photo by Krassimir Yuskesseliev

Romanian Mps’ Greed Exposed by Journalist’s Sms

A journalist from Romania Libera, posing as a business from the United Arab Emirates, sent a text message (SMS) to 460 Romanian MPs and Senators offering to make a deal with them. According to Euractive.com’s report,

An ‘explosion’ of telephone calls followed – 113 calls and 68 SMS messages – requesting a meeting. Only nine parliamentarians responded by saying that the law prohibited them from entering into such business relations.

Many of the MPs answered the text message very quickly, with one MP calling 7 times in just 2 1/2 hours. In total, 113 calls and 68 text messages were received by the journalist, Daniel Befu.

The daily has published a list of SMS messages from MPs interested in the deal and another series from those who declined the proposal.

Here is the complete story from Euractive.com

France Suspected of Blackmailing Poland over Relations With Russia

According to a leaked diplomatic cable via Wikileaks, France threatened to veto the Eastern Partnership if Poland and Sweden did not agree to begin easing relations with Russia after Russia invaded Georgia in the summer of 2008.

As originally reported by the daily Rzeczpospolita, the information was gathered by the US Embassy Chargé d’Affaires Robert Silverman and reported via a secure diplomatic cable, which was leaked yesterday. While it could be argued that something like a quid pro quo is quite common in EU politics, outright bribery is quite rare, according to Civic Platform MEP Jacek Saryusz-Wolski, who was quoted as saying that,

Once the decision on talks on the Partnership and Co-operation Agreement [with Russia] was made, Sweden and Poland, co-drafters of the [Eastern Partnership] initiative, were given the green light to ‘move ahead’.

You can read more of the story here.

Former Romanian Minister Defends Himself Against Involvement in Corruption Scheme

Vasile Blaga, a former minister in Romania, is under suspicion of having taken part in a customs corruption scheme. Defending himself on Wednesday, Mr. Blaga stated that he had never recommended anyone to head customs offices, in direct contradiction to his own words in an interview in February with the local newspaper Puterea.

An aide to Mr. Blaga attempted to clarify Mr. Blaga’s words on Wednesday, stating that he had meant local customs offices and that he stood by his statements in February. All of this comes at a time when major corruption raids (see upcoming post for more on this) have been occuring in order to figure out the structure of public sector graft in Romania.

Mr. Blaga’s words were related to the under-fire former President of the National Customs Authority, Radu Marginean, who Mr. Blaga had claimed to have recommended for the position in his interview with Puterea. Mr. Marginean is currently under investigation for corruption in connection with the Halmeu border point and was dismissed in February by Romanian Prime Minister Emil Boc.

Click here for the original story from hotnews.ro

Lithuanian Minister of Economy Resigns over Allegations of Mishandling Eu Funds

The Lithuanian Minister of Economy, Dainius Kreivys, announced that he would resign from his post, which he has held since late 2008, over allegations by a watchdog group that he inappropriately appropriated EU funds to a company that he had previously headed and which is currently owned in part by his mother.


To read the full story, please see Nasdaq’s news site

Romania Redoubles Efforts on Border Corruption

As Romania prepares to enter the Schengen Agreement, Romanian police and anti-corruption agents have increased raids at border check points throughout the country. This comes at a time when Western European countries like France and Germany are concerned about Romanian efforts to combat smuggling on its borders.

While over 100 officers were arrested during a sting on February 8th and another 50 were arrested on February 24th in a similar raid, which led to the dismissal of Customs Chief Radu Marginean, this may be too little, too late, according to Victor Alistar, the executive director of Transparency International Romania.

A major concern is that the corruption cases are not the work of individual, rogue officers, but are rather a highly organized and hierarchically run enterprise, with many police and customs union officers saying that the pawns are being sacrificed for the health of the larger corruption organization. Traian Basescu, the president, retorted that the queen actually belongs with the unions, further complicating the job for anti-corruption workers in the Balkan country.

The full story can be read here from SETimes

Chirac Corruption Case Delayed Until June

Former French President Jacque Chirac, 78, will be delayed for about 3 months while a constitutional matter over the case is possibly decided upon by the court. The former President of France is accussed of creating 28 fake city jobs while serving as the Mayor of Paris for political allies of his party, the RPR (Gathering for the Republic).

Although the City of Paris, which was the original plaintant in the case, settled a €2.2 million sum with the successor to Chirac’s party, another anti-corruption group has since taken up the cause in its stead. While Mr. Chirac faces up to ten years in prison if found guilty, commentators are already discussing the likelihood of his serving jail time even if convicted.

For more information on the case, please see the Philippine Times story.

Some Indian Pilots May Have Forged Licenses

Indian lawmakers in the Rajya Sabha, the upper house in the Indian parliament, are concerned that national aviation officials are not taking accusations that some Indian pilots may have used forged documents to obtain their licenses serious enough.

While a member of the Directorate-General of Civil Aviation said that the problem was most likely not as widespread as is currently feared, Indian authorities have said that they will investigate allegations that some airline pilots, up to 4,000, obtained their licenses through fradulent means.

The original story can be read here.

Revolutions Against Corruption Continue: Bahrain, Yemen and Libya

While protests against corrupt dictators in Tunisia and Egypt are finally reaching closure, Bahrain protesters seem to be thickening the anti-government rows, giving hope to Yemeni and most recently Lybian protesters.

Read full articles:Yemen protests: Sanaa sees fifth day of demonstrations, BBC news, February 15, 2011

Bahrain protests continue as unrest spreads to Libya, theJournal.ie, February 16, 2011

, BBC News, February 16, 2011