Exactly one year ago, President Biden released the U.S. Strategy to Combat Corruption and launched the Summit for Democracy Year of Action, which cemented the Biden-Harris Administration’s commitment to preventing and combating corruption globally. As we know too well, corruption has devastating effects on the quality of governance, security, and economic stability. It erodes the trust and confidence of citizens in their public institutions and puts an anchor around the neck of developing economies.
The United States continues to lead the effort to increase accountability and transparency and counter corrupt acts. We were the first country to criminalize foreign bribery, and, in partnership with foreign counterparts, have recovered and returned more than $1 billion in stolen public assets in the past two years. We use a range of tools to promote accountability for corrupt individuals globally. In 2022, the Department of State has publicly designated over 70 corrupt foreign officials and their immediate family members and denied them entry into the United States under Section 7031(c) of the Department of State’s annual Appropriations Act. The Department of the Treasury further sanctioned fourteen individuals and fifteen entities in connection with corruption under the Global Magnitsky Sanctions program so far this year.
The State Department also counters corruption through our country-to-country diplomacy. For example, prosecutors in Panama were mentored through a program sponsored by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau for International Law Enforcement and Narcotics Affairs (INL) and the U.S. Department of Justice. As a result, these prosecutors successfully presented evidence before a tribunal which sentenced a former minister and his wife to six years in prison for illicit enrichment.
Additionally, with U.S. assistance, Albania created a Special Anti-Corruption Body as a new elite anti-corruption and combatting organized crime entity. In recent months, the body has arrested former ministers, sitting members of parliament, judges, police, prosecutors, mayors, and organized crime kingpins.
The United States also works multilaterally and with civil society and the private sector to combat corruption. Along with many other nations, we ratified the (UNCAC) in 2006 and the United States will host the 2023 UNCAC Conference of the States Parties. Just this week, we are partnering with Transparency International to support the 20th edition of the International Anti-Corruption Conference in Washington, D.C., with the theme of “Uprooting Corruption: Defending Democratic Values.”
We are proud of our record, but we cannot win the fight against corruption alone.
To demonstrate our continued commitment to this issue, Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken launched the International Anti-Corruption Champions Award in 2021 to recognize individuals who have demonstrated leadership, courage, and impact in preventing, exposing, and combating corruption. This award demonstrates our support for anticorruption leaders and innovators. This year, our honorees had the opportunity to take part in a two-week International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) to engage with American counterparts committed to countering corruption. We hope you will join us in celebrating these champions, and in recognizing all those who fight for accountability, transparency, the rule of law, and press freedom.
Antonio Cervantes García is a fearless investigative correspondent for various international publications and a reporter for Baja California Sur’s esteemed Semanario ZETA, which regularly features exposés on government corruption, organized crime, and drug trafficking. At great personal risk, his investigative reports have exposed government agencies and authorities in complicit and explicit involvement with criminal activity.
As a President of Madagascar’s Supreme Audit Institution, Jean de Dieu Rakotondramihamina has consistently demonstrated transparency, commitment to the rule of law, and the willingness to implement reforms designed to improve the Supreme Audit Institution’s effectiveness. Despite threats and attempts to tarnish his reputation, he has led investigations uncovering extensive evidence of widespread fraud, waste, and abuse.
Investigative journalist and founder of the Crime and Corruption Reporting Network (KRIK) Stevan Dojcinovic utilizes investigative methods to expose corruption, uncover organized criminal groups, and increase citizen awareness of the pervasive harm corruption inflicts throughout Serbian society. His work has produced concrete law enforcement actions, illustrating for Serbian citizens the vital role of a free press in their nascent democracy.
As founder of the Center to Combat Corruption and Cronyism (C4) in Malaysia, Cynthia Gabriel works to promote good governance and root out corruption at the highest levels of government and business. Despite harassment by authorities, she remains undeterred and continues to expose corruption and corrupt practices, including in government procurement, environmental exploitation, and political financing.
Rozina Islam has demonstrated continued courage and tenacity as an investigative reporter covering stories of human rights abuses and corruption in Bangladesh. Her reports have exposed how corrupt officials looted public money during COVID-19, as well as revealed widespread corruption in jails and the judicial system. Despite facing significant personal threats, Rozina Islam persists in her fight for accountability.
Supreme Court Judge Marco Antonio Rueda Soto has demonstrated a stalwart commitment to fighting corruption throughout a 40-year judicial career in Colombia. He has investigated and convicted former high-level public officials despite receiving threats of intimidation, helping to overcome corruption among the political class, which he considers “the biggest barrier and gravest problem for our society.”
Qismah Salih Ali Mendeli has spent more than 30 years at the Central Bank of Iraq, where she works to enforce international best practices, increase oversight of Iraq’s financial and banking system, and eliminate illicit finance opportunities. She has tackled overwhelming organizational, archival, educational, and procedural complications to reduce corruption and lay the foundation for a rules-based economic system in Iraq.
Zimbabwe Coalition on Debt and Development (ZIMCODD) Executive Director Janet Zhou has led efforts to increase citizen engagement to demand accountability and transparency in Zimbabwe. Through the #HowFar? campaign, Zhou raised awareness of the government’s constitutional and legal responsibilities, encouraged prosecution of corrupt officials, and advocated for public discussions on transparency and the use of public funds.
Read the Media Note announcing the champions: https://www.state.gov/2022-anti-corruption-champions-award/.
About the Author: Todd D. Robinson currently serves as the Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs at the U.S. Department of State.