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Wednesday News Wall 06 July 2016

CORRUPTION

Vietnam is drafting a revised anti-corruption law to replace the current law which has been described as a toothless tiger by international commentators.

Zimbabweans are in the midst of a stay-at-home protest against corruption and misrule by Comrade-for-life Bob Mugabe. Their communicating around the twitter hashtag #ThisFlag. Predictably, the authorities are threatening to use computer crime offences to prosecute those involved in the twitter/facebook/whatsapp campaign.

This article challenges the perception that enhanced economic freedom helps reduce the risk of corruption.

CRIMINAL LAW

In an apparent attempt to smear an ICC judge, a newspaper reported that she received millions of dollars in bribes that were then spread around to ICC witnesses to induce them to testify against Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir.

The Chilcot inquiry report into Britain’s role in the Iraq war is finally out. But though it is highly critical of many senior government officials at the time, it does not recommend any criminal or other action against them for their roles. Indeed one UK expert sees criminal charges against politicians like Tony Blair over the Iraq war as an impossibility.

Nearly half of UK officers facing misconduct inquiries resign before the case is heard. Partly to curb this, the UK government has introduced a bar on officers leaving the service while the investigation is ongoing.

SENTENCING

Oscar Pistorius was re-sentenced today to 6 years in prison by a South African High Court judge for the murder of his girlfriend Reeva Steencamp. Under SA law, the minimum sentence for the crime is 15 years. Not being trained in South African law, I’m not sure how minimum sentences work in South Africa: it may be that a minimum sentence is merely a recommended minimum rather than a mandatory minimum. But is a judge allowed to deviate by nearly nine years from the set minimum?

Aside from that, I don’t see what mitigating circumstances could so dramatically lower the sentence so that it is only one year longer than the manslaughter sentence the judge gave him almost 2 years ago. On the scale of seriousness, murder is at the very top- the harm (the death of another human being) is amongst the gravest possible and the culpability (given that the Supreme Court felt that Pistorius had sufficient fault (mens rea) to fulfil the elements of murder) is also quite high. Thus even taking all mitigating factors (age, lack of a criminal record, remorse, disability etc.) into account, it is difficult to see how the murder conviction attracted less than 15 years in prison.

It may be that ‘reckless’ murder (for which Pistorius was convicted) is weighted differently from killing with intent. The fact that Pistorius will be known as a murderer rather than simply an accidental (albeit unlawful) killer may in itself satisfy the condemnatory rationale of sentencing. It may even be that Pistorius is remorseful, but even with remorse, a conviction for murder of any kind should not be seen as simply a slightly worse form of manslaughter (and sentenced based on that view) otherwise the distinction between manslaughter and murder begins to blur. There must be clear distance between the worst form of killing (murder) and other homicides. I await the full sentencing judgement to see if the criticisms are valid. And the prosecution has not ruled out an appeal

MONEY LAUNDERING

Photo credit: jamestown.org

Dutch prosecutors are asking a Netherlands court to order the seizure of €300 million that they allege was used to bribe Gulnara Karimova, the daughter of the president of Uzbekistan. This is linked to the investigation into US firm Vimpelcomm (which settled related bribery charges earlier this year by paying US authorities nearly $800 million) and Norwegian firm Teliasonera. The alleged bribes were funnelled through a front company called Takilant.

 

 

 

This is yet another lesson in the transnational relationship between corruption and money laundering: American and Norwegian firms trying to bribe an Uzbek Politically Exposed Person funnel the payments through a front company incorporated in the Netherlands.

The EU is proposing a new directive on money laundering to address beneficial ownership of companies and enhanced reporting on details of trusts. But as the article demonstrates there are some worries that the drafting may create serious loopholes.

It may also seek to limit anonymity in Bitcoin and other crypto-currency transactions by requiring bitcoin exchanges and bitcoin wallet providers to comply with the same customer due diligence requirements as currency exchanges

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