Anti-corruption and the fight against terrorism

September 2, 2016

United States Secretary of State John Kerry last week tied the war on terrorism to the worldwide fight against bribery and corruption. He directly tied the war on terrorism to the scourge of bribery and corruption in a speech last week in Nigeria, entitled ‘Remarks on community building and countering violent extremism’. This was not the terrorists’ tactical use of corruption to smuggle arms and terrorists across borders, but placing corruption firmly in the centre of a cause of terrorism.

Kerry made specific this connection when he said: “Corruption is not just a disgrace and a crime. It is also dangerous. There is nothing more demoralising, more destructive, more disempowering to a citizen than the belief that the system is rigged against them, the belief that the system is designed to fail them, and that people in positions of power, to use a diplomatic term, are ‘crooks’ – crooks who are embezzling the future of their own people.”

Yet Kerry went further when he said: “The fight against corruption has to be a global security priority of the first order. And we, all of us, particularly those nations like mine that have so much more than other countries, have an obligation to help those countries to avoid the downside of what happens when you are left on your own. Bribery, fraud, other forms of venality endanger everything that we hold dear, everything that you value. They feed organised crime. They gnaw away at nation states. They take away the legitimacy of a nation state. They contribute to human trafficking. They discourage honest and accountable investment, and they undermine entire communities.”

This global priority will not only drive new and more robust laws to fight bribery and corruption, but will make enforcement of existing laws – such as the United States Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), the United Kingdom Bribery Act, the Brazilian Clean Companies Act, and a host of similar legislation based upon the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s (OECD’s) ‘13 Good Practices’ – more robust. It will also degrade any attempts to weaken such laws. When the United States Secretary of State says that corruption leads to terrorism, the rest of the world will do more than take notice; it will respond.

In the business world, this means that governments will focus on the conduct of businesses covered by such anti-corruption laws to help in the struggle against terrorism. As governments across the world increase their fight against corruption, businesses will need to respond with appropriate anti-corruption compliance programmes. As scrutiny becomes more intense, your business response will become more critical.

United States Secretary of State John Kerry’s 23 August speech in Sokoto, Nigeria can be found here.

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