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Friday News Flip 15 April 2016

CORRUPTION

I mentioned that someone was making a documentary about the alleged link between the funding for The Wolf of Wall Street and Malaysian money laundering. Now Netflix is planning a series around the Brazilian corruption scandal.

A right-wing Spanish union official renowned for his anti-graft campaign Manos Limpios (clean hands), has ironically been charged with soiling his hands by extorting banks in exchange for withdrawing consumer complaints

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Not so clean after all. Copyright Craig Sunter

Amnesties are a hot debate in corruption circles. Some are against them, some are for them, some are only for them if the accused confesses and looted wealth is returned. Whatever Macedonians may think of amnesties, apparently pardoning 56 corrupt politicians in one fell swoop was a step too far and their protests have forced the President who did so to call a snap election.

CRIMINAL LAW

Of the places one might least expect fraud, a police trade union might be one of them. Yet the Police Federation of England and Wales is being investigated for precisely that.

I wrote about the comedian (see left photo) who got under Recep Tayipp Erdogan’s notoriously thin skin. Now Angela Merkel has paved the way for the authorities to begin investigating whether Jan Boehmerman in fact ‘defamed’ a foreign representative (as the German Penal Code describes it). This article also contains interesting background on the origin and problems of this section of German Criminal Law.

Canada could be the next country to allow doctor-assisted mercy killings. It’s a problem that plagues the criminal law because of often arbitrary distinctions between doctors who ‘withdraw’ treatment (e.g. from patients in a persistent vegetative state) and those who take active steps to end a life (who can face criminal charges in many countries).

While on the topic of suicide, an Iranian refugee who tried to kill himself at a Nauru refugee centre was charged and convicted of attempted suicide. Prosecutors pushed for a prison sentence but he was given 12 months ‘good behaviour’ (I assume that means a 12 month suspended sentence).

My opinion on this

Of all the offences in criminal law I loathe, this one is high on the list (it’s an offence in Kenya as well). Is the best remedy for a person so mentally anguished as to make a serious attempt to end his/her life to hand out a criminal conviction? Why put that person in the a prison environment? We may want to denounce suicide, and since successful suicides escape the law, the temptation is to turn our wrath on those who fail. But we forget that in the ordinary course of events it is a good thing that the suicide failed, because everyone is now on notice that the individual is enduring severe suffering and there is a chance to renew efforts to help- how does a criminal conviction assist that therapy? Furthermore, are suicides really deterred (specifically or generally) by the threat of prosecution if they fail? Call me cynical but I would think that, knowing the criminal price of failure, they would be extra-motivated to succeed. Finally there is no restorative, compensatory or retributive (since the main victim is the defendant) benefit to punishing attempted suicide. So why does this crime still exist?

SENTENCING

A man accused of killing a moderate cleric Sheikh Mohammed Idris was convicted of murder and sentenced to death. The sentencing court noted the Supreme Court was currently considering the status of the death penalty in Kenya.

The son of the Matuga Member of Parliament was sentenced to death for armed robbery.

In a laudable push-back against ‘tough on crime’ legislation, the Canadian Supreme Court found a mandatory minimum 1 year sentence for drug offences was ‘cruel and unusual punishment’ and that limiting the power of judges to give credit for time already served was also unconstitutional on the same grounds. Such legislation tends to backfire anyway since it is costly (think of the US’s bulging prisons filled with low level drug offenders), ineffective and disproportionately affects already marginalised groups.

MONEY LAUNDERING

A UK money launderer who used the laundered funds to buy himself an spanking new Range Rover and a foreign holiday is now on the run, ironically, abroad. Perhaps he should have stayed on holiday. He was nevertheless convicted and sentenced in his absence.

Finally, the lest we think that only Panamanian and BVI shell companies are used to launder funds, Deutsche Bank’s loose internal controls may have allowed $10 billion in suspect funds to leave Russia between 2012 and 2014.

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