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Legalbrief   |   your legal news hub Saturday 15 December 2018

Push to make corruption an international crime

Over the past decades, lawyers have grappled with the question of whether corruption should be considered an international crime, Human Sciences Research Council research director Mia Swart notes in an analysis on the BusinessLIVE site. Swart says one of the most compelling arguments for making corruption an international crime is that its effects can be as devastating as those of the ‘accepted’ international crimes. ‘Sadly, economic crimes are too pervasive to be seen as special. Although transnational corruption has, in recent years, been elevated to an international offence, it still does not have the status of international crime and it is not considered serious enough for heads of state or cabinet members to be prosecuted in foreign jurisdictions by means of universal jurisdiction.’ Swart says the recent indemnity/immunity deal struck with former Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe and the ongoing delay and obstruction of the NPA in prosecuting President Jacob Zuma shows that in Southern Africa, far from being prosecuted, political leaders are rewarded for corruption. She contrasts this with the anti-corruption drive in Saudi Arabia which led to the arrest of several prominent members of the political and business elite, and the sentencing of the former Vice-President of Iran, Hamid Baghaei, to 63 years in jail for the misuse of public funds while in office. ‘The criminal prosecution of heads of state will never be uncontroversial and will always have to escape the charge of being politically motivated. The corruption prosecutions in the Middle East are highly controversial but in light of the whole-scale immunity offered in Southern Africa, it might, nevertheless, be wise to follow developments in the beleaguered Arab world.’