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Corruption: A Problem that Spans the OSCE Region and Dimensions
Wednesday, December 30, 2009

By Troy C. Ware, with contributions from Shelly Han

In July 2008, Members of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (U.S. Helsinki Commission) and other Members of Congress traveled to Astana, Kazakhstan for the seventeenth Annual Session of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe Parliamentary Assembly (OSCE PA). The session’s theme was “Transparency in the OSCE.” At the outset of the trip, Congressman Alcee L. Hastings, then Chairman of the Commission, remarked that while he supported the candidacy of Kazakhstan for the Chairmanship of the OSCE it was “imperative that the government undertake concrete reforms on human rights and democratization.”1 A number of nongovernmental organizations have cited the high level of corruption in Kazakhstan as one impediment to democratic reform.

Kazakhstan is by no means alone. Recognizing the existence of corruption throughout the OSCE region, Helsinki Commissioners have consistently addressed the problem by raising it through hearings, legislation, and the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly. Hearings in 2006 identified corruption as a hindrance to fulfilling human rights commitments and economic development in South-Central Europe (Helsinki Commission June 2006 Hearing). The role of corruption as a force in restricting freedom of the media in Azerbaijan was highlighted in a 2007 hearing (Helsinki Commission August 2007 Hearing). This report will draw attention to recent initiatives undertaken by the Helsinki Commission that have shown corruption undermines human rights, fundamental freedoms and overall security.

Wherever found, corruption not only stunts democratic reform, but also weakens the security and economic condition of states. Although corruption manifests itself in various ways, this report can practically only discuss a few. For example, prominent manifestations within the three OSCE dimensions discussed include parliamentary corruption, diversion of funding from infrastructure and human trafficking. Understandably, countries will not solve a widespread and pervasive problem with a singular approach. Additionally, this report will discuss the importance of capacity building initiatives that focus on prevention as a critical element in an anti-corruption campaign. This is an element that must be included alongside the high profile anti-corruption prosecutions governments may be inclined to conduct.

A number of international governmental and nongovernmental organizations produce regular surveys or reports on corruption. The 2008 survey of corruption by Transparency International (TI), an international nongovernmental organization that promotes anti-corruption policies worldwide, ranked twelve OSCE participating States in the bottom half of 180 countries surveyed. The least corrupt countries were assigned the highest ranking. Kazakhstan ranked 145, which was still ahead of the OSCE countries of Azerbaijan, Belarus, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.2 Experts point out that since TI uses a survey, its findings may lag behind reality, reflecting only perceptions based on increased reporting resulting from government enforcement of anti-corruption laws. Others point out that surveys place too much emphasis on bribery although forms of corruption vary greatly from country to country.3 Nonetheless, other barometers, such as evaluations of the Group of States Against Corruption (GRECO), which measures anti-corruption policy reform and capacity through a multi-year expert evaluation process, suggest that some OSCE participating States are only partially implementing standards set by the group. Corruption, which was explicitly highlighted in the Parliamentary Assembly’s concluding document, the Astana Declaration,4 is a multidimensional blight that undermines human, economic, environmental, and security dimension policy goals throughout the OSCE region.

Human Dimension

Genuine democracy and rule of law cannot exist if the passage, implementation and judgment of the law favor the highest bidder. Moreover, the rule of law requires more than elections and a neutral and impartial judiciary; it requires that individuals receive the unbiased and dispassionate benefits of the law from all public servants. Larry Diamond wrote in the March/April 2008 issue of Foreign Affairs that, “[f]or a country to be a democracy, it must have more than regular, multiparty elections under a civilian constitutional order.” He points out that when regular elections are accompanied by corrupt police and bureaucracies, many people are “citizens only in name” and in their disillusionment gravitate toward authoritarian leadership.5

Observers frequently focus attention on removing graft from courts and elections. However, corruption in other spheres of society, such as among lower level public servants, contributes to the notion of corruption as an acceptable behavior often having the most immediate adverse effect on the average person. Government employees of modest rank are capable of denying basic fundamental freedoms such as equal protection of the law, enjoyment of property, the right of minorities to exercise human rights and freedoms, and the independence of legal practitioners.6 Those who advocate for the victims of corruption, even within the judicial systems, often cannot do so without repercussions. Furthermore, when parliaments become sanctuaries for persons engaged in corruption the protection conveys a message that corruption will be tolerated elsewhere in society.

Parliamentary Immunity

In a 2006 brief, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) defined parliamentary immunity as “a system in which members of a legislature are granted partial immunity from prosecution from civil and/or criminal offenses.” USAID further states that parliamentary immunity’s purpose is to “reduce the possibility of pressuring a member to change his or her official behavior [with] the threat of prosecution.”7 Unrestrained parliamentary immunity impedes the investigation and prosecution of corruption, makes parliamentary acquiescence and perpetuation of corruption possible, fosters a culture of corruption among other government officials and security officials, and disproportionately affects minority populations. According to Development Alternative Incorporated (DAI), a development consulting company, developing democracies tend to favor the broadest scope of immunity which allows corrupt activities almost with impunity. Although rare, a parliament may vote to lift immunity from one of its members, as was the case in Armenia in 2006 when immunity was removed for a parliament member who allegedly failed to pay taxes and instigated a gun fight.8

While parliamentary immunity can protect the independence of legislatures, frequently it is a shield for illicit activity. A 2007 USAID report, Corruption Assessment: Ukraine, found that “legislators have amassed fortunes through business interests and other means . . . with little transparency or accountability.” Moreover the report found that broad immunity created a powerful incentive to seek public office and introduced “illicit funding” into the political process.9 Even if prosecuting agencies investigate the activities of legislators, the individuals are rarely prosecuted because the parliament will not lift immunity. ArmeniaNow, an NGO publication, found that in the first fifteen years of Armenian independence, immunity was waived in only five instances.10 Although democratic attributes exist ostensibly in most OSCE participating States, features such as elections may ironically serve to conceal the self-serving rule that results from corruption.

Parliamentary corruption can lead to a cycle in which the parliament cannot effectively exercise an oversight role because its members have a personal stake in the illicit activity. The Bulgarian parliament’s resistance to closing duty-free vendors along its borders is an example of the controlling power of corruption according to Bulgaria’s Center for the Study of Democracy. Since 1992, duty-free fuel, cigarette and alcohol vendors have operated at Bulgaria’s borders.11 These operations, allegedly tied to organized crime, deprived the state of significant tax revenue and could undercut prices of competitors subject to duties. As a condition of joining the European Union, Bulgaria was required to raise excise duties up to a standard set by the EU. Furthermore, in 2003 the Minister of Finance signed a letter of intent with the International Monetary Fund to close all duty-free shops.12 In response to the increased tax, the illegal trade in duty-free goods increased. In 2004, the Finance Minister extended a license for the shops to continue until 2009 despite international commitments to the contrary. In 2006, the Bulgarian Parliament, instead of closing the shops, passed a law that allowed the shops to shift to the non-EU borders with Serbia, Turkey, and Macedonia.13 Finally, in early 2008, the Parliament passed a law to close the duty-free shops.14 Previously, the Center for the Study of Democracy asserted that “national level illegal proceeds from duty-free trade [had] been deployed to capture the state” and the vendors had used “political corruption to secure perpetual monopoly business positions.”15

Helsinki Commission Chairman Senator Benjamin L. Cardin has raised the issue of unbridled parliamentary immunity on many occasions. In a hearing in June 2006 on Human Rights, Democracy, and Integration in South Central Europe, Senator Cardin made a commitment to push the Parliamentary Assembly to adopt initiatives calling for changes to parliamentary immunity laws. At the July 2006 OSCE Annual Session Cardin authored a resolution on parliamentary immunity, which passed, urging the OSCE participating States to “[p]rovide clear, balanced, transparent, and enforceable procedures for waiving parliamentary immunities in cases of criminal acts or ethical violations.” In 2007, Cardin raised the issue of how parliamentary immunity can serve as cover for corruption in a Helsinki Commission hearing on Energy and Democracy (Helsinki Commission July 2007 Hearing). He has also urged nations such as Ukraine to consider changing their parliamentary immunity laws.16

Petty Corruption

Like water flowing downhill, if corruption exists at the higher levels of government and society, it will permeate the performance of public servants at every level. During a 2008 Helsinki Commission hearing on Kazakhstan’s accession to the OSCE Chairmanship, Martha Olcott of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace identified corruption that is “rampant in daily life” in Kazakhstan and present at all levels of government (Helsinki Commission July 2008 Hearing).17 Endemic corruption within the government bureaucracy has an immediate effect in terms of confidence in government and cost to the people of any country. A 2009 report stated that among European Union countries, 17 percent of Greeks and thirty percent of Lithuanians had admitted to paying a bribe to obtain service from a public administrative body.18 In many countries, widespread corruption has led to a level of acceptance. GfK Research, an international marketing and research company, conducted a study in 2006 which reported that 61 percent of Romanians, 58 percent of Bosnians, and 56 percent of Czechs regarded bribes as a normal part of life.19

Frequently, national health care service is provided only to those willing to pay extra to medical personnel. In Romania, $225 paid by Alina Lungu to her doctor was apparently not enough to prevent him from leaving the pregnant women alone for an hour during labor and her baby from being born blind, deaf, and with brain damage due to the umbilical cord being wrapped around him.20 Global Integrity, a nonprofit organization that monitors governance and corruption worldwide, provides an account of a Latvian girl experiencing stomach pain who was allowed to sit in a hospital for several days without pain-killers or treatment until her father paid money to the doctor.21 A survey in Bulgaria showed that the amount of Bulgarians identifying the health sector as the most corrupt in comparison to others such as customs, police, and judiciary increased from 20 percent in 2002 to 39 percent in 2007.22 According to 2007 reporting, Bulgarians experienced corruption in almost every type of health service including referrals, surgery, birth delivery, and emergency care. The problem is very widespread in hospital care.23 Some conclude that health workers take extra payments from patients for services already covered by health insurance and administrators overstate costs in hospital care due to insufficient hospital financing and financing regulations that encourage overspending.24

fficials regularly abuse their authority in the enforcement of traffic laws and in the area of travel. Vladimir Voinovich, a prominent Russian author, points out that to become a public official or policeman you must pay off your boss and that payment is financed through taking bribes.25 Even when officials wish to behave honestly, providing “a stream of payments to patrons” becomes a matter of survival.26 In Uzbekistan, permission from the local government is required to move to another city and according to the 2008 Department of State Report on Human Rights Practices in Uzbekistan, local authorities commonly issue the required documents only in return for a bribe. The report also states that police “arbitrarily detained people to extort bribes” on a regular basis.27 The 2008 report on Human Rights Practices in Azerbaijan noted that police officers regularly impose arbitrary fines on citizens and seek protection money.28 The report on Poland recognized that corruption among police was widespread.29 In many countries, drinking and driving has become commonplace because police can be bribed to look the other way.

The Effect of Corruption on Minorities

More often than not, police corruption disproportionally affects minority groups. In a Helsinki Commission briefing in 2004, Leonid Raihman of the Open Society Institute described the plight of Roma in Russia who are trapped in a cycle of poverty exacerbated by bribes extracted by the Russian police (Helsinki Commission September 2004 Briefing). Often detained on charges of not possessing proper personal documents or a false accusation of committing a crime, Roma will hire an attorney whose sole function is to negotiate the price of the bribe for their release. According to Raihman, the situation is analogous to that of a hostage whose freedom is being negotiated. This can sometimes lead to families selling their car, life savings or home. He noted that the worst case scenario results in homelessness.30

Regulations that require people to register their official place of residence or obtain an internal passport provide fertile soil for minority exploitation through corruption. According to the 2007 Department of State Report on Human Rights Practices in Russia, “darker skinned persons from the Caucasus or Central Asia” were regularly singled out to see if they possessed an internal passport and had registered with local authorities.31 Typically, if allowed to register, a person must pay a bribe. 

Retaliation against Lawyers

The legal profession, in addition to an independent judiciary, is an essential part of a functioning democracy. Still, government officials have used retaliatory criminal prosecution and coercive measures to discourage lawyers from representing clients in cases that expose corruption. An example from Russia is that of the attorneys representing Hermitage Capital and its executives.32 Lawyers from four independent law firms representing Hermitage have apparently been subject to unlawful office searches, illegal summonses demanding that they testify as witnesses in the same cases where they are representing clients, and that they falsify testimony against clients. Lawyers who failed to comply were subjected to criminal charges. Several of the lawyers have fled Russia.33 Sergei Magnitsky, a Russian lawyer with Firestone Duncan, a firm which represented Hermitage Capital, was arrested in November 2008 in connection with his investigation of government corruption. Magnitsky died in custody this November in a case that highlighted the difficulty of standing up to corruption and poor Russian prison conditions. As the dismissal of the head of the tax agency which Magnitsky was investigating suggests, the death is still reverberating at the Kremlin.34 However, it remains to be seen if long-term actions to protect lawyers exposing corruption will be undertaken. Persons familiar with the Russian legal system say little importance is placed on the attorney-client privilege.35 Allegedly, companies like the 2X2 television network, charged with committing crimes against the state by broadcasting content including the Simpsons and South Park encounter difficulties finding legal representation.36

Government attacks on lawyers and their clients who expose corruption represent a serious threat to the rule of law. When lawyers are intimidated and afraid to represent clients, citizens are defenseless against corruption. A primary reason for this is that courts present many complexities that non-attorneys may find difficult to overcome. The U. S. Supreme Court in Powell v. Alabama explained the challenge faced by a non-attorney representing himself in saying that the non-attorney often cannot recognize if the “indictment is good or bad,” is “unfamiliar with the rules of evidence,” and “lacks the skill and knowledge adequately to prepare his defense.”37 It is imperative that lawyers are protected from government interference and political persecution so that they may effectively represent and protect their clients’ interests.

The Economic Dimension

Studies suggest corruption retards economic development and generally results in a lower standard of living. The OSCE Best-Practice Guide for a Positive Business and Investment Climate, asserts that “corruption is clearly a major indicator of the health of a business and investment climate” and that the “wealthiest OSCE countries are generally the countries judged to be least corrupt by international observers.”38 Corruption adversely affects economic growth by slowing infrastructure development, increasing costs for businesses, and preventing competitive business outcomes. Moreover, the responsibility of wealthier OSCE participating States cannot be disregarded. Multinational corporations from developed nations, largely through acquiescent behavior, may promote corruption in countries where it is most prevalent.

Cost to Business and the Overall Economy

Bribes pose a significant cost for businesses in many OSCE countries. The Best Practice Guide notes that in former Soviet countries a higher percentage of business revenue is dedicated to paying bribes than in Western Europe.39 The guide reported that in some countries businesses pay up to four percent of their total costs in bribes.40 Whether through customs, licenses, or permits, the opportunity for graft exists where there are excessive bureaucracies or regulations. The CATO Institute’s report, The Rise of Populist Parties in Central Europe, identifies building permits as “an especially attractive source of extra income.”41 According to a World Bank report, building a general storage two-story warehouse in Moscow requires 54 procedures and 704 days.42 This interaction with numerous agencies and government officials increases the opportunity for bribes.

Bribes ultimately distort market outcomes because the most competitive companies are not rewarded for their efforts and therefore some companies choose not to compete at all. For example, government contracting is one area where bribes undermine competition and the public good. J. Welby Leaman, an advisor to the U.S. Treasury Department wrote in the Pacific McGeorge Global Business and Development Law Journal, “public officials’ solicitation of their ‘cut’ impoverish government programs.”43 The CATO Institute report cites the case of Dell Corporation losing a computer contract with the Czech parliament. Dell’s bid reportedly met all technical specifications, was the lowest cost and offered to pay a penalty fee for late delivery. Nonetheless, the contract was awarded to a Czech firm that asked for twice as much as Dell.44 Leaman also notes that if a firm cannot pass on a bribe’s cost to the customer, that firm may choose not to compete, which robs the economy of “additional investment and competition.”45

Diversion of Wealth from Natural Resources

While a number of OSCE participating States are fortunate to possess large reserves of oil and natural gas, in many instances the wealth produced by these resources does not benefit the citizens of the states, but only the few who control the resources. The Helsinki Commission held hearings in 2007 spotlighting this misappropriation and betrayal of public trust. Simon Taylor of Global Witness identified the problem’s crux in many countries noting that in Turkmenistan, a country of approximately five million people, “[60] percent of [the] population lives below the poverty line despite two billion dollars in annual gas revenues.”46 Remarkably, in Kazakhstan, the economy grew only 0.3 percent between 2000 and 2005 despite its exportation of 1.2 million barrels of oil a day. Taylor also framed the diversion of profits for personal use as a matter of energy security resulting in unreliable supply and higher prices (Helsinki Commission July 2007 Hearing).47

Following the hearings, then-Commission Chairman Alcee L. Hastings introduced an amendment to the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (H.R. 3221), which became law, making it U.S. policy to support the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) and for the U.S. Secretary of State to report annually on U.S. efforts to promote transparency in extractive industry payments.48 The 2009 report notes United States contributions to the EITI Multi-Donor Trust Fund, senior level State Department encouragement to developing economies to join EITI, embassy officer engagement with government officials in developing economies, and U.S. Treasury Department collaboration with development banks.49 In 2008, then-Co-Chairman Cardin sponsored an amendment to the Statement of the July 2008 OSCE Parliamentary Assembly Annual Session that among other things, “encourages governments from oil and gas producing countries to introduce regulations that require all companies operating in their territories to make public information relevant to revenue transparency.” The amendment was approved by the OSCE parliamentarians and adopted as part of the Astana Declaration.50 If the economies of oil and natural gas rich OSCE participating States are to reach their full potential, transparency and accountability must exist between extractive industries and national government.

Infrastructure

In addition to the price of bribes, a business is disadvantaged to compete in a market with less infrastructure due to corruption. Ukraine exemplifies an OSCE country that stands to gain from economic growth if road projects are funded, efficient and transparent. The World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness report on Ukraine notes that the poor state of Ukraine’s roads is hindered by road construction processes that provide many opportunities for corruption.51 This situation impedes not only new road construction, but also repair of existing roads and bridge construction. The State Motor Road Service of Ukraine reported that Ukraine loses the equivalent of one billion U.S. dollars annually due to poor road conditions.52 While new road projects are underway, including a new ring road around Kyiv, current legislation does not allow for a competitive private bidding process, without which the road system will continue to rank 120th out of 134 countries ranked by the World Economic Forum in quality of roads. Ukraine is not alone, Moldova ranked 133rd out of 134 countries.53 Not surprisingly, business leaders in Moldova ranked corruption as the second most problematic business obstacle in that country behind access to financing.54

Fraudulent Appropriation of Private Property

A pattern of takeovers of private companies and the government-directed persecution of their executives and lawyers is reportedly becoming the norm in Russia. A prime example was the illegal takeover of companies belonging to the Hermitage Fund, a joint venture between Hermitage Capital Management and HSBC Bank. The takeover was allegedly achieved through brazen abuses of power by law enforcement authorities and interference by government officials with Russian courts. William Browder, the founder of Hermitage, and Jamison Firestone, his attorney, recently met with Helsinki Commission staff to discuss their case. Browder’s visa was revoked in 2005 for what he believes was his work in exposing corruption in state controlled companies with close links to the Kremlin. He then appealed to high-level Russian officials, Browder said, including an impromptu conversation with then-First Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev at the Davos annual meeting of the World Economic Forum. After these appeals, Browder alleges he received a phone call from a senior law enforcement officer apparently offering to restore his visa for a price. When this offer was rejected, the Russian Interior Ministry raided the offices of Hermitage and Firestone (see Human Dimension – Retaliation against Lawyers). Corporate seals, charters, and certificates of registration for the Hermitage Fund companies as well as documents belonging to numerous other clients were confiscated during the raids.

Following the raids, the corporate documents taken by the Interior Ministry in the office raids were used to wipe HSBC off the share registry of the Hermitage Fund companies. The same documents were used to forge back dated contracts and to file lawsuits against the Hermitage companies alleging significant liabilities. Although Hermitage and HSBC were not aware of these cases, various judges awarded $973 million in damages in legal proceedings that were concluded in a matter of minutes. These same fraudulent liabilities were used by the perpetrators to seek a retroactive tax refund of $230 million in profit taxes that Hermitage had paid to the Russian government in 2006. At the time of the refund, HSBC and Hermitage had already filed six criminal complaints with the heads of Russian law enforcement authorities documenting the involvement of senior government officials in this fraud. Despite these detailed complaints, the fraudulent tax refund was promptly approved and paid to the perpetrators in a matter of days in sharp contrast to the lengthy process normally associated with such a refund.

In response to the complaints Russian authorities created an investigative committee staffed by the very officials implicated in the complaints. Moreover, a number of spurious retaliatory criminal cases have been lodged against Browder, his colleagues, and four lawyers from four separate law firms. In the meantime, Mr. Browder and a senior colleague, Ivan Cherkasov, have been placed on the Russian Federal Search List and face the possibility of becoming the subjects of an Interpol Red Notice. Because of the coordinated nature of actions taken by state officials in this scheme together with the official reaction to the Hermitage complaints, Browder suspects high level political interference.55 A country where property can be seized without due process is one where investment is likely to be depressed for fear of arbitrary loss.

Regulation of Multinationals

While the OSCE participating States of Central and Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union often receive the most criticism for failing to curtail corruption, West European countries also face problems with corruption. One notable case is the recent investigation of defense contractor BAE Systems, a British firm, for alleged bribery in arms sales to Saudi Arabia and separate probes into wrongdoing in arms transactions with Chile, the Czech Republic, Romania, South Africa, Tanzania, and Qatar. The British newspaper, The Telegraph, reported that an alleged six billion pounds (approximately nine billion dollars) were paid to various Saudi officials. Citing a threat to cease intelligence sharing by Saudi Arabia, the British government terminated the investigation.56

In response to the termination of the investigation, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), issued a report criticizing the British government for not considering alternatives to discontinuing the investigation. Moreover, the report criticized the U.K. for not enacting legislation to meet the country’s obligation under the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention.57 While other companies are under investigation, and some like Siemens A.G. have paid record-setting fines, the case of BAE systems stands out because of the record of the U.K. in holding its multinationals to account for overseas bribery. Writing in Foreign Affairs in 2006, Ben Heinemann and Fritz Heimann argue that an area of “emphasis must be the implementation of enforcement and prevention measures by developed nations, where bribery of foreign officials can be more readily exposed and prosecuted.” Unfortunately, their article points out that as of 2006, only France, South Korea, Spain and the United States have brought more than one prosecution.58 In July 2008, the House of Lords upheld the decision of the British government to end the investigation of BAE systems and the government of Prime Minister Gordon Brown has taken no steps to reopen the case.

It should be noted that under the pioneer Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), which predates the OECD Convention, the United States has steadily increased investigations and prosecutions.59 The FCPA has three major provisions. Its best known provision prohibits U.S. Corporations and individuals from using an instrumentality of interstate commerce to bribe a foreign official, political party or candidate.60The two other primary provisions require corporations to maintain records which accurately reflect transactions and to maintain “internal accounting controls” to provide assurance transactions61 are executed with management’s authorization.62

Observers note that U.S. courts are limiting exceptions to the law and extending its scope while the Department of Justice is joining FCPA charges with charges under other federal laws.63 Reportedly, as of May 2009, the Department of Justice was pursuing 120 investigations of possible FCPA violations.64Recent prosecutions have resulted in favorable court decisions for authorities. In 2004, in a broad interpretation of the law’s application, a Fifth Circuit Court ruling rejected the claim that Congress meant to limit the FCPA only to bribes relating to contracts. The court held that the legislative history implies that the law applies broadly even to payments that indirectly assist in obtaining or retaining business.65 A recent lower court narrowed an exception for lawful payments under the laws of the foreign country. In a situation where a person was relieved of liability after reporting the bribe, the court wrote there “is no immunity from prosecution under the FCPA . . . because a provision in the foreign law “relieves” a person of criminal responsibility.”66 The aggressive enforcement environment and the government’s willingness to consider company-implemented compliance programs in deciding whether to prosecute has a positive consequence of incentivizing other companies to establish such programs.

What remains to be seen is to what extent nations with mature economies will hold multinational corporations to account during times of economic hardship. Although only a handful of countries have brought prosecutions, it should be noted that many investigations result in settlements which require fines. In the case of Siemens A.G., the company settled to pay more than $1.6 billion in fines to both German and U.S. authorities.67 If mature economies do not hold multinational corporations accountable, they are in effect promoting corrupt behavior and being duplicitous in criticizing corrupt practices elsewhere.

The Security Dimension

One account from the book The Natashas: Inside the New Global Sex Trade is the story of Stefa from Moldova who traveled to Romania looking for work. Stefa met a man who introduced himself as an agent marketing positions as maids. Regrettably, nothing could have been further from the truth. This man placed Stefa and other girls in a crowded apartment where they were paraded naked and auctioned like cattle. Natasha was eventually sold and smuggled to Italy where she was sexually assaulted and forced to work as a prostitute.68 Stefa’s story is a common one that is usually facilitated by corruption. Heinemann and Heimann write “one ignores corrupt states that are failed or failing at one’s peril, because they are incubators of terrorism, the narcotics trade, money laundering, human trafficking, and other global crime.”69 In addition to these illicit activities, many recent reports tie corruption to the proliferation of small arms trafficking and sales.

Terrorism

Many observers believe that terrorists appear to have taken advantage of corruption to conduct attacks. It was reported that one of two female suicide bombers from Chechnya who brought down two Russian passenger aircrafts in August 2004 paid a $34 bribe to board a plane for which she did not have a ticket. Shortly after, flight 1047 and another flight boarded by the second suicide bomber, flight 1303, blew up in mid-air after departing Moscow’s Domodedovo International Airport. Prominent Russian author Vladimir Voinovich, wrote on the Pakistani online newspaper The Daily Times that the terrorists who took control of the Dubrovka theatre in Moscow in 2002 were reportedly stopped fifty times by authorities while traveling to Moscow, but solely for the purpose of soliciting a bribe.70 An article inCrime & Justice International alleged that officials identified 100 Ministry of Internal Affairs (MVD) police personnel who were complicit in the travel of the Chechen fighters to Moscow.71

Corruption facilitates terrorism by decreasing border security and increasing money laundering. Kimberley Thachuk writes in the SAIS Review that “[c]riminal and terrorist groups depend on unimpeded cross-border movements, and so border guards, customs officers, and immigration personnel are notable targets of corruption.”72 In the U.S. Department of State’s Country Reports on Terrorism 2008, corruption among border guards was identified as a risk in the OSCE region, particularly Albania, Armenia, Kosovo, and Moldova.73 The targeting of border guards by criminal elements extends even to the United States. Recently, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security reestablished its internal affairs unit amid increased corruption investigations. It had been disbanded in 2003. In the spring of 2008, there were 200 open cases against U.S. law enforcement officers on the border. This corruption has involved smuggling of guns, drugs, and people.74 Corruption ultimately undermines the effectiveness of security forces to fight terrorism. Kimberly Thachuk notes that “such corruption spreads, as does an attendant loss of morale and respect for the command structure.”75 This deterioration in professionalism and morale could not come at a worse time. A July 2008 article in Forbes magazine on European crime claimed a 24 percent increase in terrorist attacks from 2006 to 2007.76

Arms Sales 

As evidenced by prior testimony before the Helsinki Commission, corruption is a factor in many illicit arms sales worldwide. In June 2003, Roman Kupchinsky, then a Senior Analyst with Crime and Corruption Watch of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, pointed out that sales from former Soviet states frequently involve a marriage of security forces and organized crime (Helsinki Commission June 2003 Hearing).77 This means individuals, not the government, are making the sales. Moreover, although OSCE participating States have agreed through the Forum for Security Cooperation to not issue export licenses for arms without an authenticated end-user certificate, these certificates are often forged. Accordingly, the buyer may not be the actual recipient of the weapons.

United Nations arms embargoes notwithstanding, individuals and companies from numerous countries are involved in the manufacture, transit, diversion from legal use, and fraudulent company registration for illicit arms trafficking to countries or non-state actor groups under embargo according to Control Arms, a group of concerned non-governmental organizations. The list of countries included Albania, Belgium, Bulgaria, Moldova, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Ukraine and the United Kingdom.78 These illegal sales, which fuel conflict in the developing world, are estimated to be worth one billion dollars a year according to Rachel Stohl, an analyst at the World Security Institute’s Center for Defense Information. She noted in an article published for the SAIS Review that “[a]rms brokers are able to operate because they can circumvent national arms controls and international embargoes” frequently through corrupt practices.79

Human Trafficking

The United Nations Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons defines trafficking as “the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by [involuntary means] for the purpose of exploitation.”80 Victor Malarek, author of The Natashas: Inside the New Global Sex Trade, makes clear that corruption is the lynchpin of the trade in women and girls. Even when countries enact laws and policies to prevent trafficking, corruption threatens to render them ineffective. Mohamed Mattar writes in the Loyola and Los Angeles International and Comparative Law Review that there are indications that exit requirements such as exit visas for trafficked victims are being obtained through bribes.81 Furthermore, Malarek asserts that besides former Soviet states corruption also exists in destination countries in which officials are complicit in allowing the illicit trade. Specifically, the book draws attention to corruption among border guards and police in Greece that enables the trafficking.82

Human trafficking for sexual and labor exploitation has wreaked havoc on Moldova. Moldova is an extremely susceptible source country because of poverty and associated corruption. The breadth of the problem is detailed in an article by William Finnegan in the May 2008 issue of The New Yorker. In large measure due to its economic plight, over 25 percent of Moldova’s workforce has migrated out of the country. A third of all children are missing a parent due to migration. Much of the population views emigration as the only hope to living a better life. Such conditions create a setting abundant with potential victims for traffickers. Finnegan asserts local authorities are generally not helpful unless you are a trafficker. He quotes a local prosecutor as saying “[t]he most powerful pimps in Moldova are all former cops.”83

In 2008 the U.S. Department of State initially ranked Moldova as a Tier 3 country meaning that it had failed to comply with minimum standards and failed to make significant efforts to eliminate human trafficking as outlined in U.S. law.84 In October 2008, the President upgraded Moldova to Tier 2 status because it had reopened investigations into official complicity and drafted a code of conduct for public officials.85 Although less reporting occurs on the breakaway republic of Transnistria than Moldova, the situation there appears alarming. Finnegan discovered that law enforcement officials are uncooperative with NGOs working on behalf of trafficked victims and corruption deters relatives of trafficked victims from contacting the police.86

Finnegan’s article makes clear that destination countries share a significant responsibility for human trafficking.87 Whether through deliberate corruption or turning a blind eye, doctors, police, border guards, accountants, lawyers, travel agencies or hotels in destination countries enable trafficking and exacerbate the problem in source countries. Every Western European country and the United States and Canada are destinations for trafficked persons. In its report, the Department of State claims that more than half of commercial sex workers in France were trafficking victims. The Department also recognizes Turkey as a significant destination country. Trafficked women and girls from Azerbaijan, Belarus, Bulgaria, Georgia, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Romania, Russia, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan find themselves in Turkey. The report notes that many police in Turkey are complicit in trafficking. The United States is not immune, the recent increase in corruption investigations against Customs and Border Protection officers are in part for taking bribes to allow the passage of human beings.88

OSCE Field Missions and Prevention Efforts89

While it is necessary to sound the alarm and call attention to corruption’s presence across the three OSCE dimensions, it is equally necessary to assess OSCE and non-OSCE efforts in the region to counter corruption. The last two decades have seen a consensus at the international level concerning norms and necessary anti-corruption action at the national level. This consensus is manifested in the United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC). Despite international achievements, some would say that national level progress in decreasing corruption is at a standstill or being rolled back in some OSCE participating States. Broadly conceived, implementation is stalling. To understand why it is helpful to think of implementation occurring in two phases. The first phase consists of the passing of national laws implementing international commitments. The second phase, which is just as important, consists of institutions with independent and trained persons complying with and impartially executing the anti-corruption laws. This second phase has proven most problematic for many countries because the actions required to build capacity require a long term commitment and the dedication of resources and do not often attract media attention. Additionally, the notion that the nature of corruption differs from country to country should be embraced.90

The Office of the Coordinator of OSCE Economic and Environmental Activities (OCEEA) leads OSCE efforts in combating corruption. Through field missions, handbooks, and coordination with other international organizations, the OCEEA has promoted implementation of international anti-corruption agreements, efficient management of public resources and implementation of the Arhus Convention allowing greater access to information on the environment. Work to implement the UNCAC has paid off, with only thirteen OSCE participating States not having ratified the convention; and of those thirteen, only six have not yet signed the convention. However, this underscores the reality that ratification does not equate to true implementation of and compliance with the convention. This report cites corrupt activities within many OSCE participating States that have ratified the convention. With respect to this corrupt activity, OSCE field missions can be effective institutions for promoting substantive compliance with the convention.

An official with one international organization stressed that the hard part in decreasing corruption is the taking of preventative measures. OSCE field missions routinely undertake and promote some of these measures which include identifying and resolving conflicts, training government officials, and engaging civil society. OSCE field missions commonly provide anti-corruption assistance to local governments. However, in a manner befitting the nature of the problem, field missions conduct distinctive work appropriate to their assigned country. For example, in Georgia the mission assisted, before being closed down this year, in establishing an Inspector General’s office to review the finances of government ministries. Advocacy and legal advice centers are operated by the mission in Azerbaijan to provide legal advice on complaints and to educate the public and government authorities. In 2008, the centers in Azerbaijan provided assistance in response to 2,500 complaints. Additionally, mobile workshops reached 2,360 people with awareness campaigns and frequently provided on the spot legal advice.91 Similar centers provide aid in Armenia. The use of existing advocacy and legal advice centers is not high among people in Kazakhstan. This lower use may exemplify the benefit of an approach that carefully addresses the needs of people and nature of corruption in a given country.

Centers that target audiences other than the general public have been successful. In Tajikistan, Resource Centers for Small and Agribusiness and Centers for Promotion of Cross-Border Trade reportedly draw many patrons. It has also been reported that due to these centers, businesspeople have resisted illegal government inspections. Good Governance Centers in Georgia that assisted municipalities received high marks, and in addition to the government, were sometimes used by the general public. Prevention efforts directed at government employees at all levels are essential. Second round GRECO evaluation reports released in 2007 and 2008 identified a number of countries - some with field missions, such as Azerbaijan, and others without, such as Greece - that had not taken appropriate steps to protect government employees who are whistleblowers. In the case of Greece, sufficient protections for career advancement were not in place and employees typically could only report corruption to their immediate supervisor.92 Because the follow-on Addendum to the Compliance Reports are not public, it is unclear if adequate protections and measures to assist reporting has improved. Education coupled with preventative programs that build upon training are initiatives that field missions are well suited to provide through the various types of centers.

The OSCE mission in Ukraine has initiated a public-private dialogue that addresses accountability in local government. Fostering a dialogue between government, private sector, and civil society is important because in many countries these groups mistrust one another. In Georgia, the OSCE is supporting the efforts of Transparency International to ensure that a broad range of voices from civil society and the business community are heard by the Task Force on Fighting Corruption as it develops a new Anti-Corruption Strategy and Action Plan. These initiatives recognize that not only will implementation vary from country to country, but that implementation measures will differ at different levels of government and require input from all facets of society. Field missions are conducting varying efforts to promote a similar dialogue between government and civil society in Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, and Azerbaijan.

Recent meetings between Helsinki Commission staff and members of civil society and officials from international organizations suggest it may be misguided to keep a primary focus on national level authorities prosecuting alleged corrupt acts. One NGO member recently remarked that there are enough national level laws and that what is needed is impartial enforcement and an unbiased judiciary. In Curbing Corruption: Toward a Model for Building National Integrity, Daniel Kaufmann referred to this as the “Tackling-the-symptom bias” which “instead of identifying the root cause, involves thinking that the solution is to catch and jail a target number of criminals . . . or to pass another anti-corruption law in the country.”93 Kaufmann describes what may be the best case scenario. The worst case scenario expressed by both members of the NGO community and international organizations to the Helsinki Commission is that prosecution is used to target political opposition and journalists.

Amplifying the problem are enforcement agencies that may lack the capacity to conduct an even-handed investigation. An official from Bosnia-Herzegovnia recently said that the country “has adopted three strategic plans and ratified numerous international conventions on corruption,” but there is no implementation and the commitments go unmet.94 Public GRECO compliance reports from its second round of evaluations conclude that Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Romania have only partially implemented measures to fully train investigators, prosecutors and judges to handle corruption cases.95Again, because the follow-on addendum to the reports are not public it is unclear if training has improved in these participating States. In 2005, the President of Kyrgyzstan signed a decree establishing the National Agency of the Kyrgyz Republic for Preventing Corruption. Reportedly, in that first year, the agency opted not to put into practice a number of recommendations of an outside expert sponsored by an international organization to provide support. Later, the agency disagreed with international organizations on the use of funds offered by those organizations. Reportedly, $300,000 were made available for capacity building, but the leadership of the agency was adamant that the money be used to increase salaries. Today the agency has seven computers for 49 staff and no Internet access, Helsinki Commission staff was told.

Concerns also exist that a strong parliamentary immunity is a necessity when many governments are focused on prosecution of political opponents. The NGO member added that this prosecution is often targeted at politicians in a minority party highlighting the continued need for parliamentary immunity laws even if they allow some offenders and wrongdoers to evade prosecution. This view of targeted prosecutions has been echoed by workers with international organizations that have communicated with the Helsinki Commission on this subject. With the above in mind, it should be noted that the resolution authored by Chairman Cardin, and adopted by the Parliamentary Assembly in 2006, incorporates preventative measures by calling for the publishing of “rigorous standards of ethics and official conduct” and establishing “efficient mechanisms for public disclosure of financial information and potential conflicts of interest.”96 The goals set out in that resolution constitute a starting point that must be reinforced with other measures that over time build a common ethos of public integrity and service throughout government.

It should also be noted that the OSCE has worked in tandem with the Global Organization of Parliamentarians Against Corruption (GOPAC) in participating States such as Kyrgyzstan to train parliamentarians in roles of oversight and budget control. Finally, Chairman Cardin’s resolution recommending that the Office of the Coordinator of OSCE Economic and Environmental Activities (OCEEA) develop best practices for parliamentarians to use echoed the 2005 OSCE PA’s Washington Declaration. That document praised the work of GOPAC and recommended that the OSCE “with other parliamentary associations and [GOPAC develop] a programme of peer support, education and anti-corruption initiatives.”97 The OSCE has also worked with GOPAC in running workshops and supporting local GOPAC chapters particularly in Southeast Europe. This is an effort that should receive continued support. The importance of capacity building within parliaments cannot be forgotten when confronting corruption.

Conclusion: The Related Nature of Corruption Across the OSCE Dimensions

No account of corruption in any dimension can be viewed in isolation. If corruption thwarts a competitive business environment or is endemic among public servants then the conditions are set for an underworld of crime to flourish. Once seedlings of graft take root, they grow rapidly. Soon the institutions of democracy that require the nutrients of transparency and accountability are choked by what people may have once considered the harmless taking of small amounts of money or property. In the aggregate, petty corruption emboldens grand corruption and vice versa. Eventually, a government cannot perform the basic tasks expected of it. It cannot defend individual rights enshrined in national law, protect the engagement of commerce, or provide for the security of its people. In many instances, elites restrict political access and limit economic competition. This is what Larry Diamond refers to as a “predatory state.” Moreover, Diamond asserts when people no longer advance “through productive activity and honest risk taking” but only through operating outside the law, the predatory state becomes a “predatory society.”98 While observers may disagree whether some OSCE participating States have reached such an extreme point, all states are always somewhere on the continuum between a functional electoral democracy and a predatory society.

To combat corruption the OSCE, through existing field mission mandates, should continue to focus adequate attention to building capacity to identify and address corruption and promotion of a culture of integrity and anti-corruption among civil servants and civil society. All participating States should implement commitments under international treaties such as the UNCAC. However, ratifying the UNCAC and passing national laws targeting corruption is not enough. While prosecutions serve a deterrence function, they must be balanced by relatively low profile well-planned prevention programs that are sustained by sufficient resources. In order to identify and address the circumstances that foster corruption, collaboration must increase between governments, NGOs, corporations and small and medium size enterprises to develop specific strategies. OSCE countries should consider supporting neighbors by building upon the model of field missions. Corruption is a problem not likely to end soon, but is an area where progress may be made if small successes are reinforced with adequate resources.

Work is needed to live up to the ideals recorded in the Parliamentary Assembly’s Astana Declaration and the earlier Istanbul Declaration of the 1999 OSCE Summit, in which OSCE participating States recognized corruption as a threat to “shared values” and pledged “to strengthen their efforts to combat corruption and the conditions that foster it.” The OSCE countries need to muster the political will, individually and collectively, to conduct a smarter fight against corruption – a threat to security, property, and fundamental freedoms throughout the expansive OSCE region.

Footnotes

1 Joanna Lillis, “Kazakhstan: Nazarbayev Hints that Democratization will Take Back Seat on OSCE Agenda,” Eurasia Insight, July 9, 2008,http://www.eurasianet.org/departments/insight/articles/eav070908.shtml (accessed June 1, 2009)

2 2008 Corruption Perceptions Index: Persistently high corruption in low-income countries amounts to an “ongoing humanitarian disaster” (Berlin: Transparency International, 2008).

3 Michael Johnston, Syndromes of Corruption: Wealth, Power, and Democracy (New York: Cambridge, 2005), 19-21.

4 OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, Astana Declaration of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly and Resolutions Adopted at the Seventeenth Annual Session, 2008, 7, 28, and 45.

5 Larry Diamond, “The Democratic Rollback: The Resurgence of the Predatory State,” Foreign Affairs87, no. 2 (2008): 39, and 42-44.

6 The participating States committed to support and advance these rights and freedoms, in addition to others, in the 1990 Copenhagen Document. “Document of the Copenhagen Meeting of the Conference on the Human Dimension of the CSCE,” June 29, 1990.

7 United States Agency for International Development, Parliamentary Immunity Brief: A Summary of Case Studies of Armenia, Ukraine and Guatemala, August 2006, 1-2.

8 Carmen Lane, Parliamentary Immunity and Democracy Development (Washington D.C.: DAI, 2007) 1-3.

9 United States Agency for International Development, Corruption Assessment Ukraine, Final Report February, 2006, 49

10 Gayane Mkrtchyan, “Not Above the Law?: Parliament Lifts Immunity, MP Hakobyan Must Face Prosecution,” ArmeniaNow.com, October 13, 2006, http://www.armenianow.com/?action=viewArticle&AID=1768

11 Center for the Study of Democracy, Effective Policies targeting the Corruption – Organized crime Nexus in Bulgaria: Closing Down Duty-Free Outlets, Brief, December 2007, 3.

12 Ibid., 5.

13 Ibid., 3.

14 Elena Koinova, “Changes to Duty-Free Trade Act passed in Parliament,” The Sofia Echo, March 28, 2008, http://sofiaecho.com/2008/03/21/659426_changes-to-duty-free-trade-act-passed-in-parliament

15 Center for the Study of Democracy, Effective Policies targeting the Corruption, 3.

16 Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, Energy and Democracy: Oil and Water?, 108th Cong., 2nd sess., 2007 (Prepared statement of Senator Benjamin L. Cardin, not unofficial transcript), https://www.csce.gov/international-impact/events/energy-and-democracy-oil-and-water (accessed June 22, 2009)

17 Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, Promises to Keep: Kazakhstan’s 2010 OSCE Chairmanship, 110th Cong., 2nd sess., 2008, (Prepared statement of Martha Olcott not unofficial transcript), https://www.csce.gov/international-impact/events/promises-keep-kazakhstan-s-2010-osce-chairmanship (accessed June 8, 2009).

18 Transparency International, 2009 Global Corruption Barometer Report, (Berlin: May, 2007) 32.

19 GfK Research, Corruption Climate in Europe, August 9, 2006, available athttp://www.gfk.hr/press1_en/corruption2.htm (accessed June 17, 2009).

20 Dan Bilefsky, “Medical Care in Romania Comes at an Extra Cost,” The New York Times, March 9, 2009.

21 Global Integrity, Global Integrity Scorecard: Latvia, 2007, 1-2.

22 Konstantin Pashev, Center for the Study of Democracy, Corruption in the Healthcare Sector in Bulgaria (Sofia, Bulgaria: 2007) 17.

23 Ibid, 17.

24 Ibid, 35.

25 Vladimir Voinovich, “Drunk on Corruption,” Daily Times, January 3, 2003,http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=story_3-1-2003_pg3_4 (accessed June 18, 2009).

26 Michael Johnston, “Poverty and Corruption,” Forbes, January 22, 2009.

27 U.S. Department of State, 2008 Human Rights Report: Uzbekistan, February 25, 2009,http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2008/sca/119143.htm.

28 U.S. Department of State, 2008 Human Rights Report: Azerbaijan, February 25, 2009,http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2008/eur/119068.htm.

29 U.S. Department of State, 2008 Human Rights Report: Poland, February 25, 2009,http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2008/eur/119098.htm.

30 Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, The Romani Minority in Russia, 108th Cong., 2nd sess., 2004, 8 (Prepared statement of Leonid Raihman found in official transcript).

31 U.S. Department of State, 2007 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Russia, March 11, 2008, http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2007/100581.htm.

32 The account of how Hermitage Capital was seized corruptly through a series of non-transparent proceedings is told in the section addressing the Economic Dimension.

33 Jamison Firestone, conversation with Helsinki Commission staff, April 14, 2009.

34 Carl Mortished, “Kremlin sacking linked to Sergei Magnitsky case,” TimesOnline, December 16, 2009,http://business.timesonline.co.uk/tol/business/industry_sectors/banking_and_finance/article6957931.ece (accessed December 22, 2009).

35 Lynda Edwards, “Russia Claws at the Rule of Law,” ABA Journal 95 (2009): 41.

36 Ibid., 42.

37 Powell v. Alabama, 287 U.S. 45, 69 (1932).

38 The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, Best-Practice Guide for a Positive Business and Investment Climate, 2006, 30.

39 Ibid.

40 OSCE, Best-Practice Guide 30-31.

41 Marian L. Tupy, CATO Institute, The Rise of Populist Parties in Central Europe: Big Government, Corruption, and the Threat to Liberalism, November 8, 2006, 14.

42 The World Bank, Doing Business 2009: Country Profile for Russian Federation, 2008, 12.

43 J. Welby Leaman, “It’s Not Always Nice to Play Nice: Collusion, Competition, and Development,”Pacific McGeorge Global Business and Development Law Journal 20, no. 2 (2007): 291.

44 Tupy, Rise of Populist Parties, 9.

45 Leaman, “It’s Not Always Nice to Play Nice,” 291.

46 CSCE, Energy and Democracy, 108th Cong., 2nd sess., 2007 (Prepared statement of Simon Taylor not unofficial transcript) (accessed June 12, 2009).

47 Ibid. 

48 Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, Public Law 110-140, 110th Cong., 1st sess. (December 19, 2007).

49 .S. Department of State, Report on Progress Made in Promoting Transparency in Extractive Industries Resource Payments, June 24, 2009. On file with United States House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs,

50 Parliamentary Assembly, Astana Declaration, 28.

51 Margareta Drzeniek Hanouz and Thierry Geiger, eds., World Economic Forum, The Ukraine Competitiveness Report: Towards Sustained Growth and Prosperity, 2008, 56.

52 Hanouz and Geiger, eds., The Ukraine Competitiveness Report, 56.

53 Michael Porter and Klaus Schwab eds., World Economic Forum, The Global Competitiveness Report 2008-2009, 385.

54 Ibid., 242.

55 William Browder, conversation with Helsinki Commission staff, April 14, 2009. William Browder did testify at a Helsinki Commission hearing just as this report was being completed in June 2009. During his testimony he provided a website (http://www.compromat.ru/main/vragi/raderykak.htm) that provided a price list for a range of activities attacking a corporate entity in Russia from erasing a company’s registration data to a complete takeover.

56 Jon Swaine, “BAE Systems executive ‘questioned over alleged bribery,’” The Telegraph, October 23, 2008, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/newsbysector/epic/badot/3245563/BAE-Systems-executive-questioned-over-alleged-European-bribery.html (accessed June 15, 2009).

57 Organizations for Economic Co-operating and Development, United Kingdom: Report on the Application of the Convention on Combating Bribery of Foreign Public Officials in International Business Transactions and the 1997 Recommendation on Combating Bribery in International business Transactions, October 17 2008, 4.

58 Ben W. Heineman, Jr., and Fritz Heimann, “The Long War Against Corruption,” Foreign Affairs 85, no. 3 (May/June 2006), 77, 82.

59 Control Risks, Corruption, Compliance and Change: Responding to Greater Scrutiny in Challenging Times (London: 2009) 3.

60 15 U.S.C. §§ 78dd-1.

61 15 U.S.C. § 78m(b)(2)(A).

62 15 U.S.C. § 78m(b)(2)(B).

63 Gail P. Granoff and Brian Mich, 2008 FCPA Review, January 28, 2009 (Presentation at International Quality & Productivity Center FCPA Conference).

64 Dionne Searcey, “U.S. Cracks Down on Corporate Bribes,” The Wall Street Journal, May 26, 2009.

65 United States v. Kay, 359 F.3d 738, 755 (5th Cir. 2004).

66 United States v. Kozeny, 582 F. Supp 2d 535, 539 (S.D.N.Y 2008).

67 Cary O’Reilly and Karin Matussek, “Siemens to Pay $1.6 Billion to Settle Bribery Cases,” The Washington Post, December 16, 2008.

68 Victor Malarek, The Natashas: Inside the New Global Sex Trade (New York: Arcade Publishing, 2003), 112-113.

69 Heineman and Heimann, “The Long War,” 79.

70 Voinovich, “Drunk on Corruption”.

71 Graham H. Turbiville, Jr., “Corruption, Crime and Murder Undermine Counter-terrorist Efforts,”Crime & Justice International 21, no. 87 (July/August 2005), 8.

72 Kimberly Thachuk, “Corruption and International Security,” SAIS Review XXV, no. 1 (Winter-Spring 2005), 147.

73 U.S. Department of State Country Reports on Terrorism 2008, Europe and Eurasia Overview, April 2009.

74 Randal Archibold and Andrew Becker, “Border Agents, Lured by the Other Side,” The New York Times, May 27, 2008.

75 Thachuk, “Corruption,” 147.

76 Parmy Olson, “Europe’s Crime Capitals,” Forbes, July 15, 2008,http://www.forbes.com/2008/07/15/europe-capitals-crime-forbeslife-cx_po_0715crime.html

77 Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, Arming Rogue Regimes: The Role of OSCE Participating States, 108th Cong., 1st sess., 2003, 40 (Prepared statement of Roman Kupchinsky found in official transcript).

78 Control Arms, UN Arms Embargoes: An Overview of the Last Ten Years, Briefing Note, March 16, 2006, 2.

79 Rachel Stohl, “Fighting the Illicit Trafficking of Small Arms,” SAIS Review (Winter-Spring 2005), 64.

80 “Protocol to Prevent, Suppress, and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, Supplementing the United Nations Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime,” Article 3 (a), United Nations, (2000).

81 Mohamed Y. Mattar, “State Responsibilities in Combating Trafficking in Persons in Central Asia,”Loyola and Los Angeles International and Comparative Law Review 27 (Spring 2005), 161 (see footnote 76).

82 Malarek, The Natashas, 140-141.

83 William Finnegan, “The Counter Traffickers: Rescuing Victims of the Global Sex Trade,” The New Yorker, 2, 6, 7-8, http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2008/05/05/080505fa_fact_finnegan (accessed June 8, 2009).

84 U.S. Department of State, Trafficking in Persons Report, June 2008, 184.

85 U.S. Department of State Senior Coordinator for Public Outreach, Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, email to author, December 10, 2008; Embassy of the United States, Moldova, “Moldova Moved up to Tier 2 in Trafficking in Persons,” press release, October 10, 2008,http://moldova.usembassy.gov/pr102908.html.

86 Finnegan, “The Counter Traffickers,” 10.

87 Ibid., 9, 11.

88 Rick Jervis, “Arrests of Border Agents on The Rise,” USA Today, April 23, 2009.

89 This section of report is based upon meetings and discussions with a variety of international governmental organizations and nongovernmental organizations who to the extent possible are not identified. Any opinions expressed or conclusions drawn do not necessarily reflect the official views of any of these organizations.

90 Johnson, Syndromes of Corruption, 186.

91 Office of the Co-ordinator of OSCE Economic and Environmental Activities, March 25, 2009, email to author providing numbers of complaints and people contacted.

92 Group of States against Corruption, Second Evaluation Round: Compliance Report on Greece, February 15, 2008, 9.

93 Daniel Kaufmann, “Anticorruption Strategies: Starting Afresh? Unconventional Lessons from Comparative Analysis,” in Curbing Corruption: Towards a Model for Building National Integrity, ed. Rick Stapenhurst and Sahr J. Kpundeh (Washington, D.C.: World Bank Publications, 1999), 37.

94 Miroslav Ajder, “Corruption Claims Hold Back Bosnia: Allegations of Fraud in Government Contracts and Privatization are Pitting the Government Against Monitors and Scaring off Foreign Investors,” BusinessWeek, March 17, 2009.

95 These compliance reports may be found at the GRECO web page,http://www.coe.int/t/dghl/monitoring/greco/evaluations/round2/reports(round2)_en.asp (accessed June 15, 2009).

96 Resolution on Limiting Immunity for Parliamentarians in order to Strengthen Good Governance, Public Integrity and Rule of Law in the OSCE Region, OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, 15th sess., Brussels Declaration (July 7, 2006).

97 OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, Washington, DC Declaration of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly and Resolutions Adopted at the Fourteenth Annual Session, 2005, 35.

98 Diamond, “The Democratic Rollback,” 43. 

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The Kremlin has deployed an opposing narrative to justify Russian military engagements in Georgia in the early 2000s, and more recently in Ukraine. Putin sees the inclusion of either nation in NATO, and the political and economic liberalization that go with it, as threats to his regime’s stability. NATO membership would limit Russian interference in the internal affairs of either state. Additionally, if Russia’s neighbors and fellow post-Soviet states can become true democracies, provide higher quality of living, and ensure the rule of law, then why can’t Putin’s Russia? Any argument that NATO expansion threatens Russia misrepresents the organization, which is a diverse coalition dedicated to mutual defense and development. Moreover, such an assertion overlooks the efforts NATO has made to include and collaborate with Russia in the pursuit of cooperative security. NATO Back to its Roots By illegally and brutally invading Ukraine in February 2022 – a dramatic escalation of the grinding conflict started in 2014 – Putin has galvanized European and Western unity. Hearkening to its origins and returning attention to Eastern Europe, NATO is recommitting itself to “counter Russia’s attempts to destroy the foundations of international security and stability.” The international community is largely on board. In its collective attention beyond security, NATO – alongside other organizations – highlights not only the potential for, but the responsibility of the international community to condemn human rights violations, uphold the rule of law, and pursue economic health, all efforts that further challenge the Kremlin’s narrative that it can lead (or that there even needs to exist) an opposing bloc. Alarmed by Moscow’s renewed expansionism, Sweden and Finland have abandoned decades of neutrality in favor of NATO membership. They are on track towards the fastest accession process in history, and anticipate a smooth integration. Both already engage in the wider European community through membership in such organizations as the European Union and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. Their force structures are robust, and well-versed in NATO procedures following decades of partnership; their accession will secure northeast Europe, expand NATO’s border with Russia, and reinforce NATO presence in the Arctic and Baltic Sea. Although the Kremlin initially vowed “military and political repercussions” were Finland and Sweden to join NATO, such threats have dulled to warnings about the installation of NATO military infrastructure nearer Russia’s borders; as Finland and Sweden’s NATO membership neared finalization, Putin even expressed “no problem” with these states joining the Alliance. It remains to be seen how this change will play out. After decades of orientation towards international stabilization, humanitarian, and counterinsurgency mission sets, NATO has been refocused on European deterrence and defense following the Kremlin’s violent assault on Ukraine. In addition to condemning Russia’s invasion and supporting Ukraine via such measures as the Comprehensive Assistance Package, NATO plays a critical role in championing European collective defense and discouraging any expansion of conflict.    

  • Co-Chairman Cohen Calls for the Release of Political Prisoners in Belarus

    Washington – On the second anniversary of the sham presidential election in Belarus, the Helsinki Commission Co-Chairman and OSCE PA Special Representative on Political Prisoners Rep. Steve Cohen (TN-09) issued the following statement: “Two years ago today, Belarus’s autocrat Aleksander Lukashenko put up a show of an election that he had hoped would legitimize his unconstitutional power grab. Despite the many and well-documented cases of election abuse, the people of Belarus did not fall for the tricks of the one-man ruler of Belarus. They voted Lukashenko out, but, predictably, he refused to leave. He ignored the will of the people and chose vicious violence to suppress the peaceful dissent. “In the year following the unprecedented in scale peaceful rallies against the 2020 election results, Lukashenko’s troops arrested, tortured and imprisoned a reported 35,000 Belarusians for the simple act of demanding the government respect their choice and rights. He personally presided over the largest ever domestic repression that saw thousands behind bars and tens of thousands flee the country, including the opposition leader and likely legitimate winner absent election fraud, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, who has been welcomed by neighboring countries. “Since that time, Lukashenko has continued a crackdown on civic participation in Belarus with arrests of civilians protesting the Russian war in Ukraine, changes to Belarus’s non-nuclear status, and the ongoing Lukashenko regime during last year’s March 25th anniversary of Belarus’s ‘Freedom Day,’ adding to the already sizeable number of politically motivated detainments in the country. “There are now close to 1200 individuals languishing in Belarusian prisons for speaking out against authoritarianism, corruption and war. Included among the political prisoners are: Syarhey Tsikhanouski, husband of Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya and potential candidate against Lukashenko detained in May 2020; Roman Protasevich, journalist and opposition figure accused of inciting mass protests and detained after a false bomb threat forced the landing of Ryanair flight FR4978 destined for Lithuania in Belarus in May 2021; Sofia Sapega, Russian citizen and girlfriend of Protasevich who also was aboard Ryanair flight FR4978; Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty Belarus Service journalists Ihar Losik, Andrey Kuznechyk and Aleh Kruzdzilovic; and Ales Bialiatski, founder of Viasna Human Rights Centre, a human rights organization based in Minsk that provides financial and legal support to political prisoners. These are but a few names representing political candidates, oppositionists, activists, journalists and other Belarusian and non-Belarusian citizens detained by Lukashenko’s regime. “Lukashenko must immediately order the release of all political prisoners and wrongfully detained individuals and stop the systematic violations of human rights.  I call on the U.S. Department of State and our allies abroad to work together during this time of heightened tension with Belarus and Belarus’s benefactor, Russia, to ensure the unjustly imprisoned Belarusians are released at the earliest date possible.”

  • Helsinki Commission Digital Digest July 2022

  • Co-Chairman Cohen Condemns Execution of Democracy Activists in Myanmar

    WASHINGTON—Following the execution of four democracy activists by Myanmar’s military junta, Helsinki Commission Co-Chairman and OSCE Parliamentary Assembly Special Representative on Political Prisoners Rep. Steve Cohen (TN-09) issued the following statement: “I strongly condemn the execution of these courageous activists by Myanmar’s unelected and illegitimate regime. These men—Kyaw Min Yu, Phyo Zeya Thaw, Hla Myo Aung, and Aung Thura Zaw—were political prisoners who were deprived of their right to due process and a chance to defend themselves. The junta sentenced them to death in secret trials, once again demonstrating the complete lack of respect for human life and common decency as well as a total disregard for rules-based order by which countries should abide. “The regime has jailed thousands, including the Nobel Peace laureate and State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi, after seizing power in a coup in February 2021. Following a series of closed-door hearings and a string of trumped-up charges and convictions each carrying additional sentencing, she was sentenced to a total of 11 years in prison as of April 2022.  In an obvious attempt to ensure she is jailed for life, she still faces added bogus charges that could see her imprisoned for more than 190 years by some reports. This is appalling and concerning as the recent executions confirm that the junta will not hesitate to murder political prisoners to further strengthen their rule of terror. “The world should unite to pressure Myanmar to release all political prisoners. At least 117 activists have been sentenced to death since the coup. We must do everything in our power to ensure that they do not face the grim fate of their four compatriots.”

  • Co-Chairman Cohen Deplores Arrest of Ilya Yashin in Russia

    WASHINGTON—In response to the arrest of Ilya Yashin, a Russian politician critical of Russia’s war in Ukraine, the Helsinki Commission Co-Chairman and OSCE PA Special Representative on Political Prisoners Rep. Steve Cohen (TN-09) issued the following statement: “Putin’s government has been engaged in a systematic assault on Russian citizens who dare speak the truth about Russia’s atrocities in Ukraine. Ilya Yashin, a Russian patriot and a fierce critic of the war in Ukraine, is one of the victims of this regime. “Ilya spoke out against the war despite the cynical law Russia has adopted that punishes people speaking the truth on this conflict with up to 15 years in prison. He was arrested on trumped-up charges and is facing a lengthy jail term for no crime other than publicly speaking out against Russia’s war in Ukraine. Ilya is a political prisoner and should be given all protections afforded by this status. The Russian government has a complete disregard for international law and customs but if they have an ounce of respect for their own laws, they will immediately release Ilya and other political prisoners.” Ilya Yashin, a co-founder of the Solidarity movement, is a member of a Moscow city district council. Throughout his career, he advocated for fair elections, rule of law, and democracy in Russia. Prior to his arrest, Mr. Yashin was one of the few Russian opposition activists who had not been killed, forced to flee, or imprisoned.

  • Helsinki Commission Urges Administration to Work to Free Vladimir Kara-Murza

    WASHINGTON—Helsinki Commission Chairman Sen. Ben Cardin (MD), Co-Chairman Rep. Steve Cohen (TN-09), Ranking Member Sen. Roger Wicker (MS), and Ranking Member Rep. Joe Wilson (SC-02) today released a letter urging the Biden Administration to “use every instrument in our toolbox” to free Russian political prisoner Vladimir Kara-Murza. The letter read in part: “The United States has a proud history of standing up for political prisoners and working relentlessly to help them return to freedom. We stared down the Soviet Union, Communist China, military regimes in Latin America and South-East Asia, and succeeded in helping secure the release of those who deserved freedom the most – innocent and peaceful activists and freedom fighters representing a vision for better governments in those countries. Mr. Kara-Murza represents a hope for a democratic Russia at peace with its neighbors and own citizens, and now is someone who the U.S. should advocate for his release… “The Helsinki Commission continues to raise the issue of political prisoners in Russia, Belarus, and other countries across the OSCE region, and specifically Vladimir Kara-Murza’s case…Now, we call on your Administration to use every instrument in our toolbox to secure the release of Mr. Kara-Murza. This is in the interest of our national security, his well-being, and importantly, the well-being of his incredibly brave children and spouse. Mrs. Kara-Murza and their three children reside in the U.S and despite the distance, the Kremlin has been poisoning – literally and figuratively – their lives for decades now. We should do everything in our power to help free Vladimir Kara-Murza and reunite him with his family.” On April 12, Vladimir Kara-Murza was arrested in Russia on charges of disobeying police orders when he allegedly “changed the trajectory of his movement” upon seeing Russian police officers at his home. This carried a 15-day sentence in jail. With five days remaining in his sentence, new charges were levied against him for spreading “deliberately false information” about Russia’s war on Ukraine.  He now faces up to 15 years in prison. On March 29, he testified at a Helsinki Commission hearing examining Russian dictator Vladimir Putin’s war on truth, where witnesses discussed the Kremlin’s use of propaganda and censorship. “Those who speak out against this war are now liable for criminal prosecution,” he said. The Helsinki Commission has a long tradition of advocating on behalf of political prisoners worldwide. Earlier this month, Co-Chairman Cohen was appointed the first-ever OSCE Parliamentary Assembly Special Representative on Political Prisoners.

  • CO-CHAIRMAN COHEN APPOINTED AS OSCE PARLIAMENTARY ASSEMBLY SPECIAL REPRESENTATIVE ON POLITICAL PRISONERS

    WASHINGTON—Margareta Cederfelt, President of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly (PA), has appointed Helsinki Commission Co-Chairman Rep. Steve Cohen (TN-09) as the first-ever OSCE PA Special Representative on Political Prisoners. “I welcome the chance to serve as the voice of political prisoners across the OSCE region,” said Co-Chairman Cohen. “Every day, we witness more political arrests of opposition politicians, journalists, activists and civilians in Russia, Belarus, and other participating States that are cracking down on free speech, freedom of the press, and free thought. Through this position, I am committed to working tirelessly to elevate the issue of political imprisonment as the egregious violation of human rights that it is.” In his new role, Co-Chairman Cohen will collect and share intelligence on political prisoners throughout the OSCE region; raise awareness of participating States with high rates of political prisoners; advocate for the release of political prisoners; and promote dialogue at the OSCE PA and OSCE executive structures about political imprisonment.  Commission Chairman Senator Ben Cardin and Congressman Chris Smith were reappointed as Special Representative on Anti-Semitism, Racism and Intolerance, and Special Representative on Human Trafficking Issues, respectively.

  • Helsinki Commission Delegation Convenes Historic Black Sea Security Summit, Demonstrates Bipartisan Support for European Security

    WASHINGTON—From June 29 – July 9, Helsinki Commission Ranking Member Sen. Roger Wicker (MS) led a bipartisan, bicameral congressional delegation to Romania, the United Kingdom, Finland, and Sweden to consult with senior officials across Europe about Russia’s war on Ukraine, security in the Black Sea region, and Finland and Sweden’s plans to join NATO. On the shores of the Black Sea in Constanta, Romania, Sen. Wicker and Romanian Foreign Minister Bogdan Aurescu co-chaired the first-ever congressionally-organized Black Sea Security Summit to underscore the critical importance of the Black Sea region to European peace and security, and to establish a sustainable, collective approach to ending Russian aggression and enhancing mutual cooperation. “Given Russia’s monstrous war on Ukraine and its wider aggression in the region, it is not an exaggeration to say that the Black Sea is currently the epicenter of Euro-Atlantic security and global peace,” said Sen. Wicker. “Ukraine must be successful in this war…Vladimir Putin’s unprovoked aggression against a neighbor cannot stand.” “Over the last 25 years, a key objective of our bilateral strategic partnership has been to act as partners in enhancing our joint security and promoting the democratic and economic development of the Black Sea region.  The continuation of common decisive action in this regard at the bilateral and multilateral level is more relevant than ever,” said Minister Aurescu. “All along the Black Sea coast lies the first line of defense for the Euro-Atlantic community and the first line of support for our partners in Ukraine, the Republic of Moldova, and Georgia.” Prior to the summit, members of the Congressional delegation visited Romania’s Mihail Kogălniceanu Air Base, where they received briefings from U.S., Romanian, and other NATO personnel and met with American troops. Delegation members then traveled to Birmingham, UK, for the Annual Session of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly (PA). Co-Chairman Rep. Steve Cohen (TN-09) was Head of the U.S. Delegation to the PA and spearheaded U.S. efforts to forge a strong, unified response from international legislators to Russia’s ongoing war of aggression against Ukraine and its people. “All OSCE parliamentarians must stand in solidarity with our Ukrainian colleagues as they battle the Kremlin’s vicious, intolerable war on Ukraine,” said Co-Chairman Cohen. “We must do all in our power—through this forum and all others—to ensure that Ukraine is victorious against Russian aggression.” During the Annual Session, parliamentarians overwhelmingly approved a resolution introduced jointly by Sen. Wicker and the heads of the Ukrainian and Lithuanian delegations, responding to Russia’s war on the Ukrainian people and the greater Russian threat to European security. The document “condemns resolutely and unequivocally the ongoing, intensified, clear, gross and still uncorrected violations of Helsinki Principles as well as of fundamental principles of international law by the Government of the Russian Federation in its war of aggression against Ukraine, as well as the complicity of Belarus in this war of aggression, and calls on the governments of OSCE participating States to do the same.” Several members of the U.S. Delegation successfully introduced more than two dozen amendments, designed to keep the focus on Russia’s current aggression, to an array of other resolutions. In Birmingham, the delegation also co-hosted an event highlighting the growing problem of political repression in Russia and Belarus, especially in the context of protesting the war on Ukraine; met with Mikhail Khodorkovsky to discuss his organization’s work to support political prisoners and democracy in Russia; and held bilateral meetings with the UK’s parliamentary leadership, OSCE officials, parliamentarians from other OSCE countries. Helsinki Commissioner Rep. Richard Hudson (NC-08) was re-elected to his post as chair of the OSCE PA’s Committee on Political Affairs and Security. Following the Annual Session, the congressional delegation stopped in Finland and Sweden to welcome the historic decision of both countries to join the NATO Alliance. In Finland, members met with President Sauli Niinistö, and Finnish parliamentarians including First Deputy Speaker Antti Rinne and OSCE PA Vice President Pia Kauma. In Sweden, they met with Foreign Minister Ann Linde, Deputy Defense Minister Jan Olof-Lin, and a group of members of the Swedish parliament, led by Speaker Andreas Norlén and OSCE PA President Margareta Cederfelt. In addition to Co-Chairman Cohen, Sen. Wicker, and Rep. Hudson, the Congressional delegation included Helsinki Commission Ranking Member Rep. Joe Wilson (SC-02), Commissioners Rep. Robert Aderholt (AL-04), Rep. Ruben Gallego (AZ-07), and Rep. Marc Veasey (TX-33), as well as Sen. John Cornyn (TX), Rep. Lloyd Doggett (TX-35), Rep. John Garamendi (CA-03), Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (TX-18), Rep. August Pfluger (TX-11) and Rep. Chris Smith (NJ-04).

  • Switzerland, Playground of Russian Oligarchs, Emerges as Sanctions Weak Link

    ZUG, Switzerland—After Switzerland said in February it was joining European Union sanctions against Russian oligarchs, this quiet Alpine getaway seemed like an obvious place to hunt for targets. The streets are clustered with the offices of companies founded by Russia’s wealthiest men, along with the headquarters for landmark natural-gas pipelines Nord Stream 1 and 2 and the energy-trading department of Gazprom PJSC. So many Russian billionaires have homes or businesses here that the local opposition party had begun taking sightseers on an Oligarch’s Tour. Swiss newspapers nicknamed Zug “Little Moscow” and joked that local leaders wanted to build a Kremlin wall around the town. It didn’t seem so easy to the six local officials charged with helping implement sanctions. Working from a fifth-floor conference room, the team had a hard time identifying homes or local businesses officially owned by any of the hundreds of Russian oligarchs on the Swiss government’s list of sanctioned people. They struggled with Cyrillic names and often couldn’t make sense of the 300-page list, said Heinz Tännler, the financial director for the Canton, or state, of Zug. They also struggled with the implications for the local economy, added Mr. Tännler, who worries that sanctions have jeopardized his canton’s reputation as a safe place for foreign investment. “This is a very difficult time, especially for the Canton of Zug,” he said. In the end, the officials found exactly one company out of the roughly 30,000 registered in Zug that they believed was owned or controlled by a sanctioned individual. Zug’s slow start is emblematic of the country as a whole. Switzerland has pledged to punish Russia for its invasion of Ukraine. So far, that promise hasn’t triggered much action against Russian companies doing business there, bolstering concerns in world capitals that the Alpine financial hub isn’t doing enough to forestall the Kremlin and Russian President Vladimir Putin’s allies. Eighty percent of Russia’s commodities are traded through Switzerland, mostly through Zug and the lakeside city of Geneva. Swiss banks manage an estimated $150 billion for Russian clients, according to the country’s banking association. Thirty-two of the oligarchs closest to Mr. Putin have property, bank accounts or businesses in Switzerland, according to Zurich-based transparency group Public Eye. In the four months since Swiss authorities began sanctions, $6.8 billion in Russian financial assets have been frozen, alongside 15 homes and properties, according to the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs, or SECO. By contrast, EU countries have collectively frozen $14 billion in alleged oligarch assets spanning funds, boats, helicopters and real estate, in addition to over $20 billion in Russian central-bank reserves. EU countries have also blocked around $200 billion in financial transactions. Authorities on the U.K. island of Jersey alone froze over $7 billion in assets they said are linked to oligarch Roman Abramovich, who didn’t respond to requests for comment. U.S. senators have privately petitioned Swiss officials to do more to locate Russian money and property. “Instead of enabling Russia’s abuse of the global financial system, they should stand against it,” said Sen. Roger Wicker (R., Miss.), chair of the U.S. Commission on Security and Cooperation, which promotes human rights, military security and economic cooperation. Switzerland’s government has rejected that kind of criticism, stressing that its adoption of EU sanctions marks a historic shift and that it is doing everything possible to hunt down blacklisted assets. “It is clear that the sheer volume of the sanctions against Russia and Belarus, as well as the speed with which they were adopted, creates certain challenges for implementing authorities, in Switzerland and elsewhere,” said a SECO spokeswoman. Western sanctions have increasingly been used to squeeze Russia since 2014, when it annexed Crimea. Since then, Mr. Putin and a tight circle of allies have been exploiting gaps in the global financial system to evade blacklists and hide wealth overseas. Despite Switzerland’s status as a global financial hub, the country’s regulators are hamstrung by limited resources—SECO had just 10 officials fully dedicated to sanctions until recently, when the government hired five more. Their work is also frustrated by an old structural problem: The business of registering companies remains a hive of secrecy, making it difficult to identify ultimate ownership of assets, according to Western diplomats. Swiss bankers and transparency campaigners say billions of dollars of Russian clients’ assets have been transferred to the names of spouses and children in recent years—a phenomenon that accelerated in the run-up to the war, they say. The Gateway The Putin regime’s presence in Zug can be traced to the early days of his presidency, and a ceremony in the canton’s sprawling art nouveau palace, Theatre Casino. While Russia’s military was bombing the restive republic of Chechnya, Mr. Putin was awarded the 2002 “Zug Peace Prize” by the Nuclear Disarmament Forum, an organization of influential local businessmen that has since disbanded. The meeting, attended by business and political leaders close to the Kremlin and serenaded by the Russian National Orchestra, heralded the flourishing of Russian commodity trading in the town, according to local politicians. Many oligarchs have businesses in Zug that remain untouched by sanctions. They include Mr. Abramovich, the largest shareholder of Evraz PLC, a Russian steelmaker and mining company that has a trading arm in the canton. Evraz was sanctioned in the U.K., where it traded on the London Stock Exchange, but hasn’t been sanctioned in Switzerland or the EU, even though Mr. Abramovich has. Not far from Zug, in Winterthur, is the headquarters of Sulzer AG , an engineering company that is 48.8%-owned by Russian billionaire Viktor Vekselberg, who is sanctioned by the U.S. and the U.K. When Poland sanctioned Sulzer’s operations, the Swiss embassy in Warsaw unsuccessfully lobbied the Polish government to reverse the move, according to a Polish government official and the Swiss department of foreign affairs. Sulzer said Poland’s decision was wrong given that Mr. Vekselberg is just a minority shareholder and neither owns nor controls the company. Sulzer isn’t sanctioned anywhere else, a spokesman said. Representatives for Mr. Abramovich and Evraz didn’t reply to requests for comment. The SECO spokeswoman said the agency is in close contact with the U.K. authorities about sanctions, but “is not bound by their assessment.” A spokesman for the department of foreign affairs said that under Swiss law the government can assist Swiss companies abroad, and that sanctioning Sulzer’s Polish subsidiaries threatened jobs and hurt Sulzer clients. U.S. and European officials say they are counting on the Swiss government to find which companies and homes in Switzerland belong to sanctioned Russian oligarchs and freeze them. Switzerland’s history of financial secrecy, enshrined in its law, can make it exceedingly difficult to identify who owns what. Under Swiss legal precedent, lawyers can still open a company on behalf of a client and claim attorney-client privilege to block authorities from uncovering that person’s identity. That, officials say, hinders them from finding more companies whose accounts should be frozen under sanctions. It is also an obstacle for banks with small compliance teams. Swiss business registries don’t require firms to list true owners, which are often hidden by opaque companies in Switzerland held by trusts in financial havens, a loophole exploited by businessmen from Russia and elsewhere eager to mask the true ownership of their assets, according to Swiss opposition politicians and advocates for financial reform. “A Swiss lawyer hides the name of the beneficial owner in his vault, and there’s no way the Swiss authorities can get to the name,” said Mark Pieth, a former head of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s bribery division now at the Basel Institute on Governance. “The government has deliberately tied its own hands behind its back.” EuroChem Trusts came into play earlier this year when Switzerland, following the EU’s lead, sanctioned Andrey Melnichenko, one of Russia’s richest oligarchs and a longtime Swiss resident. On March 9, the EU added Mr. Melnichenko’s name—No. 721—to its blacklist, describing him as part of the “closest circle of Vladimir Putin ” and involved in businesses vital to the government. It mentioned a meeting he attended in Moscow with Mr. Putin in the first hours of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, along with 35 other oligarchs. In Italy, police seized his sailing yacht, the world’s largest. Left untouched was EuroChem AG, a company founded by Mr. Melnichenko in 2001 that grew into one of the world’s top producers of fertilizer, with revenue last year of $10.2 billion. Based in a small glass tower in Zug nicknamed the Dallas Building, the company is deeply entwined in the supply chains of Europe’s largest chemical giants. The day before the sanctions were announced, the tycoon disclaimed his interest in a Cyprus trust that held the company, according to a document signed by EuroChem’s chief financial officer. That left Mr. Melnichenko’s wife, Aleksandra, a former Serbian pop star, as the trust’s sole beneficiary. “Given that Mr. Melnichenko no longer owns, holds or controls any funds and economic resources of EuroChem Group…neither EuroChem Group nor any member of EuroChem Group are subject to EU asset freeze measures,” stated a document viewed by The Wall Street Journal. EuroChem lawyers also wrote to SECO that the company wouldn’t provide economic resources to Mr. Melnichenko or pay dividends to his wife. On March 28, SECO rendered its judgment: EuroChem didn’t need to have its assets or bank accounts frozen. Officials in Zug followed suit. Mr. Tännler, the canton’s financial director, bridled at criticism that local officials aren’t looking hard enough. “I think people know that we did a good job, that we did what we can do,” he said. He washed his hands of the EuroChem decision. “SECO made a determination that EuroChem is clean,” Mr. Tännler said. The European Commission in June countered that decision, ruling that Ms. Melnichenko was unduly benefitting from her husband and should be sanctioned. Switzerland then followed suit, blacklisting her but leaving EuroChem untouched. Credit Suisse, which needs to answer to tougher U.S. regulators because of its U.S. dollar business, has frozen the accounts EuroChem held at the bank. A spokesman for the couple said Mr. Melnichenko considers the sanctions against him unjust. “The formal justifications are nonsense,” said the spokesman, who denied that Mr. Melnichenko is a member of Mr. Putin’s inner circle or provides substantial revenue to the Russian government. Ms. Melnichenko has appealed to the Council of the European Union, saying the sanctions against her have complicated EuroChem’s ability to sell fertilizer, “leading to the famine and death of millions of people.”

  • HELSINKI COMMISSION DIGITAL DIGEST JUNE 2022

  • The Helsinki Process: An Overview

    In August 1975, the heads of state or government of 35 countries – the Soviet Union and all of Europe except Albania, plus the United States and Canada – held a historic summit in Helsinki, Finland, where they signed the Final Act of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe. This document is known as the Helsinki Final Act or the Helsinki Accords. The Conference, known as the CSCE, continued with follow-up meetings and is today institutionalized as the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, or OSCE, based in Vienna, Austria. Learn more about the signature of the Helsinki Final Act; the role that the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe played during the Cold War; how the Helsinki Process successfully adapted to the post-Cold War environment of the 1990s; and how today's OSCE can and does contribute to regional security, now and in the future.

  • Long Shadow of Russian Money Raises Tricky Questions for Swiss Bankers

    January used to be a big month for Swiss bankers and their Russian clients. Many of the Moscow elite had made a tradition of coming to the Alps for the orthodox new year, skiing with their families, then catching up with their financial consiglieri. In St Moritz, one banker recalls how he would book blocks of rooms for his clients. He would entertain them with snow polo, rolling out the charm as they clinked champagne glasses and watched horses charge across a frozen lake. This year he couldn’t tempt a single one. For the best part of a decade, Russian money has coursed through the Swiss banking world. But, as Russia’s relationship with the west has soured in recent years, what was once a source of bumper new profits for Switzerland’s banks has become a financial and reputational risk. In the run-up to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February, many wealthy Russians were moving to better safeguard their money from political interference, putting assets in the names of relatives or shifting them to less closely scrutinised jurisdictions, such as Dubai. In its wake, a vast sanitisation operation is under way at Swiss banks, to try and wind down relationships with sanctioned individuals. Neutral Switzerland has matched all of the EU’s punitive financial measures against Russia. More than 1,100 of the Russian elite — including figures such as coal and fertiliser billionaire Andrey Melnichenko and banker Petr Aven, both regular visitors to Switzerland — have become financial personae non gratae in a country many had assumed would keep their fortunes safe. The biggest banks, such as the publicly listed trio of UBS, Credit Suisse and Julius Baer, have declared they will cease all new business in Russia. For critics, though these are weasel words. It is their existing Russian clients that are the problem. No one is expecting many new fortunes to be minted in Russia any time soon. “Switzerland has a terrible history when it comes to Russian dirty money,” says Bill Browder, a longstanding Kremlin critic and a former Russian investor. He is sceptical of how much commitment there is among Swiss bankers to enforcing sanctions. “The Swiss want to be seen as doing something, but they don’t actually want to do anything,” he says. The US Helsinki Commission, an independent US government agency that observes human rights and the rule of law in Europe, agrees. In a report issued in May, it labelled the alpine state and its banks “a leading enabler of Vladimir Putin and his cronies”. The Swiss government responded by calling US secretary of state Antony Blinken in protest. A spokesperson for the Swiss government said president Ignazio Cassis “rejected the [report] in the strongest possible terms”. Like their counterpart in St Moritz, Swiss bankers the FT interviewed for this story all declined to be identified. Many more refused to speak at all. Switzerland’s banking secrecy laws are draconian — talking about clients can earn a lengthy jail term — and talking about Russian clients is even more taboo. “When we were onboarding a lot of these clients [in the 2000s], the entire approach was just very different. And you can’t really say that publicly now,” says one former banker who handled eastern European and Russian clients until retiring two years ago. “These [Russians] were people who had earned so much money, so quickly, that they didn’t know what to do with it. They were basically ideal clients. As long as you had no questions about where that money had come from . . . and, basically, we didn’t.” Quite how much Russian money there is in Switzerland is open to question. In March, the industry body representing Switzerland’s banks, the Swiss Bankers Association (SBA), caused a stir when it released details of a study estimating there was SFr150bn-SFr200bn ($154bn-$205bn) held in accounts for Russian citizens. At the end of last year, the total cash held on behalf of customers by Switzerland’s banks was SFr7,879bn, more half of which was wealth from abroad, according to the SBA. The disclosure prompted hand-wringing in the Swiss media. Commentators, even at conservative outlets such as the newspaper Neue Zürcher Zeitung, asked whether Switzerland should do business with autocratic regimes anywhere in the world any more. But others in the country have defended its economic relationships with Russia. The outspoken finance director of the canton of Zug, an important low-tax centre, said in March it was not his job to “act like a detective” and make judgments on Russian assets. In April, he announced that Zug, home to 37,000 companies, had no sanctioned assets to report back to Bern. Nevertheless, by April, the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) announced that it had frozen SFr9.7bn of Russian assets. Authorities have insisted that the amount is proportionate to the scale of asset freezes in other leading financial centres. But Bern has been forced to row back in some cases, and in May it announced it was unfreezing SFr3.4bn of funds. Switzerland cannot freeze funds “without sufficient grounds”, says Erwin Bollinger, a SECO official, who adds that the government has received data on sanctioned accounts at more than 70 of the country’s banks. Direct disclosure by the banks has been patchy. Credit Suisse chief executive Thomas Gottstein told a conference in March that about 4 per cent of assets in his bank’s core wealth management business were Russian — a proportion that would equate to roughly SFr33bn. Meanwhile, UBS, the world’s largest private wealth manager, has disclosed it has $22bn of assets of “Russian persons not entitled to residency in the European Economic Area or Switzerland”, leaving open the question of how much it holds overall. Some 16,500 Russians are permanently resident in Switzerland, and more Russians are accepted for Swiss citizenship than any other nationality, according to the State Secretariat for Migration. Julius Baer has made no direct disclosure of the size or wealth of its Russian client base, though it has said, somewhat elliptically, that the value of assets held by its Moscow-based subsidiary is some SFr400mn. Information from the dozens of other smaller Swiss private banks is even scantier. Even leading industry figures wonder what is being left unsaid. One executive, who for the past two decades has been a senior figure in the private banking world in Switzerland, says he has almost no doubt that the significance of many banks’ close working relationships with sanctioned individuals is being underplayed. “You don’t have dozens and dozens of people employed on your Russia desks if you are not making money in Russia,” he says. Moreover, he adds, many Russian clients have done their business through Swiss banks’ subsidiaries abroad, such as those in Monaco, London or Asia. It is not clear to him whether all these assets have been caught by the Swiss rules. Swiss banks have a legal obligation to record the ultimate beneficial owners of all assets they handle worldwide, but doing so accurately can be tricky in jurisdictions where it is easy for third parties to mask who the owners are. Switzerland’s banks have moved dramatically from the freewheeling approach of previous years, when there was “a run on Russia”, says Thomas Borer, a former leading Swiss diplomat turned consultant, who has worked with prominent Russian clients. He now supports Switzerland’s sanctions policy. “Being militarily neutral does not mean being economically indifferent,” he says. But he argues that Swiss banking culture is still very different from elsewhere in the west. Even the biggest banks, he says, were clinging to relationships with Russian clients as the Ukraine crisis unfolded. The Financial Times revealed that, as late as March, Credit Suisse was asking investors to destroy documents that might expose Russian oligarchs it had done business with to legal risks. One senior relationship manager at a Zurich-based bank agrees. Even as sanctions came in, he says, the dominant approach was to ask, “how can we make this work for the client?” rather than “how do we do this for the government?”. But he defends the approach, saying: “Doing everything you can for your client is a Swiss commitment to excellence. If I was a watchmaker I would want to make the best watches with many complications. And if I was a policeman, then maybe I would want to be the best at catching Russian criminals. But I’m a banker.” There is still legal ambiguity in Switzerland over whether sanctions apply to family members and friends of listed individuals. This has provided a loophole bankers have helped at-risk clients to actively exploit in recent years. Swiss banks have seen “billions” of assets transferred to the names of spouses and children of Russian clients, in a trend that accelerated in the run-up to the war, says one banker. One bank chief executive admitted recently to the FT that there were many “grey areas” in applying sanctions. Part of the problem, he said, was that bank legal departments were struggling to obtain clarity from Bern on which asset transfers were deemed to be evading sanctions and which were not. Many who have been in the industry for a long time decry the new rules they must follow around taking new clients and being certain of the source of their wealth. “Know your customer used to mean just that: do you know the person? Now it is supposed to mean: do you know every little thing about their financial and private life?” says one Geneva-based banker. Many Russians themselves knew the banks were no longer safe havens, particularly since 2018 when Swiss banks began making significant concessions to information sharing on client accounts with other governments. Swiss residency did not protect billionaire Viktor Vekselberg in 2018, for example, when he was targeted by US sanctions; both Credit Suisse and UBS moved to terminate loans with him. The SBA says its members adhere to the highest international standards. Chief executive Jörg Gasser, argues Swiss banks have “no interest in funds of dubious origin” and have rigorous procedures in place to rapidly screen for sanctioned assets. “Swiss banks have been — and still are — very careful and diligent when it comes to accepting client funds,” he says, adding it is important to recognise the huge amount of legitimate business done with Russian entrepreneurs who are not subject to sanctions. For Mark Pieth, emeritus professor of criminal law at the University of Basel and a specialist in white-collar crime, the real story of the past decade is how Switzerland’s lawyers, rather than its bankers, have become the facilitators of hidden foreign money. “Swiss bankers were extremely cosy with Russians in the past,” he says. “Alongside London, this country was the porch for Russians into the west . . . but now I wouldn’t say the problem is so much with the banks — it is all the other intermediaries.” Swiss law gives remarkable sweep to attorney-client privilege, says Pieth, meaning lawyers can refuse to disclose almost anything to the authorities about their clients. The Swiss Bar Association strongly rejects this. “Professional secrecy does not protect against criminal acts,” it says. “Lawyers know the law and know what to do.” One senior industry figure defends the banks’ position unapologetically. He says everybody now wants to know the origins of their luxury jackets. But 10 years ago nobody was asking where they were made, by whom and with what materials. In banking, as in fashion, things have changed, he says, but nobody is haranguing the fashion world in the same way they are criticising banks. Fashion companies, though, have moved with the times and opened up, whereas Switzerland’s banks, for all their insistence on change and compliance, still want to maintain as much of the secrecy surrounding their clients as possible — even at a time of international crisis.  

  • Helsinki Commission Digital Digest May 2022

  • Why I’m Sad to Be on Russia’s All-Purpose Payback List

    Reading Russia’s latest sanctions list, permanently banning travel to the country by 963 people, saddened me — and not just because my name is on it. It’s a catalogue of hurt from a nation that seems ready to blame everybody but its leaders for its current troubles. The list is very long indeed, running to nearly 100 pages in my printout. Reading so many names, you sense that Russia is deliberately burning nearly all its bridges to the United States. Russia’s ruling elite feels abused by American politicians, business leaders, journalists, judges, think tanks — nearly everyone, it seems. Donald Trump can still visit Moscow, but scores of Republican members of Congress can’t. The list of excluded GOP senators ranges from moderates such as Roy Blunt of Missouri and Mitt Romney of Utah to hard-right stalwarts Ron Johnson of Wisconsin and Tom Cotton of Arkansas. The GOP doesn’t fare much better in the House. Moderates Liz Cheney of Wyoming and Mike Gallagher of Wisconsin can’t tour the Kremlin anymore, but neither can Jim Jordan of Ohio or Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia. As for Democrats, forget about it. The sanctions list includes the Democratic House leadership, including Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California, Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland and Democratic Whip James E. Clyburn of South Carolina. The Congressional Progressive Caucus can save its rubles, too. The members of “the Squad” are all banned. So are Pramila Jayapal of Washington state and Ro Khanna of California. It’s the same on the Senate side. Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer of New York and Whip Richard J. Durbin of Illinois: Nyet, nyet.

  • Putin's Bribetakers and Warmongers

    The Helsinki Commission was briefed on 6,000 bribetakers and warmongers identified by Alexei Navalny's Anti-Corruption Foundation.

  • Helsinki Commissioners Lead Bipartisan Ask for Biden to Sanction Russians Responsible for Jailing Opposition Leader Vladimir Kara-Murza

    WASHINGTON—U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (MD), author of the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act and Chair of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (Helsinki Commission), along with Helsinki Commission Ranking Member Senator Roger Wicker (MS) and Commissioners Senators Jeanne Shaheen (NH) and Sheldon Whitehouse (RI) are urging President Joe Biden to publicly sanction “every Russian official and associate involved with the false arrest, detention, and political persecution of Vladimir Kara-Murza.” The lawmakers made the plea last week in a letter that also was signed by U.S. Representatives Steve Cohen (TN-09), Co-Chair of the Helsinki Commission; Joe Wilson (SC-02), Ranking Member of the Helsinki Commission; Gerald Connolly (VA-11); John Curtis (UT-03); Brian Fitzpatrick (PA-01), Ruben Gallego (AZ-07); Richard Hudson NC-08); Sheila Jackson-Lee (TX-18); Marcy Kaptur (OH-09); Bill Keating (MA-09); Adam Kinzinger (IL-16); Tom Malinowski (NJ-07); Peter Meijer (MI-03); Mike Levin (CA-49); Gwen Moore (WI-044); Burgess Owens (UT-04); Katie Porter (CA-45); Maria Elvira Salazar (FL-27); Abigail Spanberger (VA-07); and Marc Veasey (TX-33). “Kara-Murza is a Russian opposition politician who has long stood up against Russian dictator Vladimir Putin. He embodies what Russia might be one day when it is democratic and free,” the lawmakers wrote. “As Russia loses its brutal war of aggression against Ukraine, we must consider what might come next in that country. Kara-Murza offers a vision of a Russia free from imperialist kleptocracy. He has bravely answered the call of many Ukrainians for Russians to take a stand and oppose this bloody and senseless war. He must be immediately freed and allowed to continue his work.” The full letter is below and can be downloaded at this link. President Joseph R. Biden, Jr. The White House 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., NW Washington, DC 20500 Dear President Biden, We urge you to name and sanction every Russian official and associate involved with the false arrest, detention, and political persecution of Vladimir Kara-Murza. Kara-Murza is a Russian opposition politician who has long stood up against Russian dictator Vladimir Putin. He embodies what Russia might be one day when it is democratic and free. We also urge you to examine whether to sanction those involved in the persecution and imprisonment of other Russian political prisoners. Kara-Murza is a Russian patriot who has fought for decades for democracy in Russia and a prosperous future for his country. For this, the regime in Russia has poisoned him twice. On April 11, while in Russia, Kara-Murza called this regime “a regime of murderers.” He was then arrested, and now faces trumped up charges that may result in years of unjust imprisonment. Kara-Murza was the key Russian activist behind the passage of the Magnitsky Act and its adoption by our allies. The late Senator John McCain called him “one of the most passionate and effective advocates for the passage of the Magnitsky Act.” Kara-Murza himself, like his mentor Boris Nemtsov before him, has called the Magnitsky Act the most “pro-Russian law passed in the United States in the history of our countries.” Nemtsov was murdered in front of the Kremlin. The Magnitsky Act is the appropriate tool to sanction those involved in the persecution of Kara-Murza. We ask that you coordinate with our allies to sanction these individuals at the same time. The European Union, the United Kingdom, Canada, and Australia now all have Magnitsky sanctions laws of their own. As Russia loses its brutal war of aggression against Ukraine, we must consider what might come next in that country. Kara-Murza offers a vision of a Russia free from imperialist kleptocracy. He has bravely answered the call of many Ukrainians for Russians to take a stand and oppose this bloody and senseless war. He must be immediately freed and allowed to continue his work. Sincerely,

  • Swiss Release Some Frozen Russian Assets

    The Swiss government on Thursday reported 6.3 billion Swiss francs ($6.33 billion) worth of Russian assets frozen under sanctions to punish Moscow's invasion of Ukraine, a drop from early April as around 3.4 billion francs in provisionally blocked assets were released. The figure marked a decrease from roughly 7.5 billion Swiss francs in funds the government reported frozen on April 7. Government official Erwin Bollinger pointed to fewer funds -- 2.2 billion francs -- newly frozen than those that had been released. read more "We can't freeze funds if we do not have sufficient grounds," Bollinger, a senior official at the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) agency overseeing sanctions, told journalists. Pressure has increased on Switzerland -- a popular destination for Moscow's elite and a holding place for Russian wealth -- to more quickly identify and freeze assets of hundreds of sanctioned Russians. read more The U.S. Helsinki Commission, a government-funded independent commission which looks at security, cooperation and human rights issues in Europe, in early May called Switzerland "a leading enabler of Russian dictator Vladimir Putin and his cronies", who the commission said used "Swiss secrecy laws to hide and protect the proceeds of their crimes". The Swiss government rejected the accusations "in the strongest possible terms", while Swiss President Ignazio Cassis had requested the U.S. government "correct this misleading impression immediately" during a telephone call with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken. Swiss banks hold up to $213 billion of Russian wealth, Switzerland's bank lobby estimates, with its two largest lenders UBS (UBSG.S) and Credit Suisse (CSGN.S) each holding tens of billions of francs for wealthy Russian clients. read more Credit Suisse alone froze some 10.4 billion Swiss francs of that money through March under sanctions imposed in connection with the invasion. read more Credit Suisse's reporting did not make clear how much of that money was frozen in Switzerland. While banks and asset managers can provisionally freeze funds, SECO officials on Thursday said funds needed to be released if they could not establish the assets were directly owned or controlled by a sanctioned individual. "The amount of assets frozen is not a measure of how effectively sanctions are being implemented," Bollinger said, adding asset freezes were "by far" not the most important measure in a wide-ranging packet of sanctions. ($1 = 0.9948 Swiss francs)

  • Lithuania Becomes First to Designate Russia as Terrorist State

    Lithuania's parliament on Tuesday designated Russia as a terrorist country and recognized its actions in Ukraine as genocide. Why it matters: In doing so, Lithuania has become the first country in the world to designate Russia as a sponsor and executor of terrorism, Ukraine's Centre for Strategic Communications and Information Security tweeted. State of play: Lithuania's unicameral parliament adopted the two-pronged resolution unanimously, per a statement posted to its Facebook page. "The war against Ukraine by the Russian Federation is a genocide of the Ukrainian nation carried out by Russia. The Russian Federation is a country that supports and executes terrorism," the statement read. What they're saying: The resolution stated that Russian forces have committed war crimes in Ukrainian cities such as Bucha, Irpin, Mariupol, Borodyanka and Hostomel, Lithuanian National Radio and Television (LRT) reported. The parliament "recognizes the full-scale armed aggression – war – against Ukraine by the armed forces of the Russian Federation and its political and military leadership ... as genocide against the Ukrainian people," it added. The resolution also stated that Russia, "whose military forces deliberately and systematically target civilian targets, is a state that supports and perpetrates terrorism." The big picture: Last week, Ukraine's Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova told the U.S. Helsinki Commission that Russia had committed nearly 10,000 war crimes over the course of the war. Russian forces have deliberately targeted civilian infrastructure such as hospitals. Last month, Sima Bahous, the United Nations executive director for women, told the UN Security Council that reports of human trafficking, rape and other sexual violence in Ukraine were increasing. President Biden said last month that Russia was committing genocide in Ukraine.

  • Russia's Swiss Enablers

    Long known as a destination for war criminals and kleptocrats to stash their plunder, Switzerland is a leading enabler of Russian dictator Vladimir Putin and his cronies. After looting Russia, Putin and his oligarchs use Swiss secrecy laws to hide and protect the proceeds of their crimes. Close relations between Swiss and Russian authorities have had a corrupting influence on law enforcement personnel in Switzerland and have led to the resignation of numerous officials, including the head prosecutor of Switzerland. A recent Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project investigation found that Credit Suisse catered to dozens of criminals, dictators, intelligence officials, sanctioned parties, and political actors, and identified problematic accounts holding more than $8 billion in assets. According to the Financial Times, Credit Suisse also asked investors to destroy documents linked to yacht loans made to oligarchs and tycoons. This briefing examined the relationship between Switzerland and Russia in light of Putin’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine. Panelists discussed how a compromised Switzerland affects U.S. national security and whether the United States should rethink its strategic bilateral relationship with Switzerland. Related Information Panelist Biographies How the Swiss Law Enforcement Capitulated to the Russians in the Magnitsky Case - Bill Browder

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