Secretary Antony J. Blinken delivers remarks at the Anti-Corruption Champions Award Ceremony at the Department of State in Washington, D.C., December 7, 2023. (Official State Department photo by Chuck Kennedy

In a world faced with myriad challenges, including terrorism, health epidemics, and strategic competition to shape the future of the international order, corruption may not always seem to be at the top of the list of threats.   

But that is changing, for the U.S. government and partners around the world.  Left unchecked, corruption steals from a country’s citizens and can sell out a country’s future — giving a foothold to hostile, criminal actors in the process. 

Corruption keeps unaccountable officials in power, slows the pace of development, facilitates crime, and ensures unequal distribution of resources – which can affect underrepresented and underserved populations disproportionally.  For all these reasons, the Biden-Harris Administration released and is now implementing the first-ever U.S. Strategy on Countering Corruption.   

Our strategy recognizes that preventing, uncovering, and combatting corruption takes a mix of courage, intelligence, and doggedness by many stakeholders, and each year the Department seeks out examples to highlight.  And each year, we find many examples of individuals who are committed to pushing back on corruption.  

Recently, Department leadership, including Secretary Blinken, gathered to recognize 11 exemplary corruption fighters. 

They include reporters, government practitioners, and civil society activists.   

We hope you will join us in celebrating our 11 State Department International Anti-Corruption Champions for 2023, and in recognizing all those who fight for accountability, the rule of law, and press freedom.   

Graphic with the 2023 Anti-Corruption Champions. The honorees are Stanislau Ivashkevich of Belarus, Jean-Claude Mputu of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Arturo Torres of Ecuador, Nikhil Dey of India, Ali (Mukhammedali) Toktakunov of Kyrgyz Republic, Marc N. Kollie of Liberia, Veronica Mihailov-Moraru of Moldova, Vladimir Novović of Montenegro, Annette Planells of Panama, Francisco Belo Simões da Costa of Timor-Leste, and May De Silva of Seychelles.  We are honored to work alongside champions like these to defeat corruption.

More information on each of our 2023 honorees can be found below. 

Moldovan Justice Minister Veronica Mihailov-Moraru advanced countless transparency initiatives as part of a broader effort to cleanse Moldova’s judiciary and prosecution services of corrupt actors.  She now leads the ministry she helped reform. 

For the past 35 years, activist Nikhil Dey has championed policy reforms to empower workers in India.  He and his counterparts have brought to light official corruption, such as the underpayment of workers on official projects, and built peasant and worker empowerment campaigns targeting corruption in the delivery of government services.    

Stanislau Ivaskhevich not only took huge personal risks by engaging in independent media reporting in Belarus, but he and his team also tackled government and business corruption despite intense government pressure – all while building a 50-person organization that serves as a resource to civil society and journalists alike.   

Marc N. Kollie fearlessly took on high-level bribery and corruption among Liberia’s powerful political elites as part of his tireless work at the Liberian Financial Intelligence Agency.  His commitment to uncovering corruption cost him his job, exposed him and his family to harassment and threats, and forced him to relocate his family for safety.   

In Timor-Leste, Francisco Belo Simoes da Costa exposed a corrupt deal for a Beijing-funded project to digitalize the country’s largest broadcaster.  The deal, involving a company majority-owned by a PRC-based businessperson, ultimately led to charges being filed against a sitting minister.  

Jean-Claude Mputu is a leading anti-corruption activist in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and spokesperson for the NGO “The Congo is Not for Sale,” which focuses on extractive industries, and has called attention to billion-dollar losses due to mining sector corruption.    

Montenegro has long struggled to stem transnational organized crime.  In an effort to turn the tide and root out corruption within the government, Chief Special Prosecutor Vladimir Novovic has aggressively targeted high-profile individuals, indicting the former president of the Supreme Court, among others. 

Panamanian civil society leader Annette Planells is a tireless advocate of transparency in government and a leading figure of anti-corruption efforts in her country.  She has experienced retaliatory lawsuits and government intimidation, but wins more than she loses, including joining a successful suit against the former Chief Justice of Panama’s Supreme Court, who was sentenced to five years in prison.    

Seychelles anti-corruption commissioner May De Silva has 35 staff but like many successful public servants is extending her reach by leveraging external allies, to include FBI agents and investigators from the United Kingdom.  She also shaped the outlook of young people around her country and their civic engagement.  

Ecuadoran investigative journalist Arturo Torres published research into drug trafficking, corruption, and exploitation of his country’s natural resources.  A judge sued him for $15M for defamation, a case that Mr. Torres ultimately won.    

Journalist “Ali” Totakunov is known as one of the most effective and visible anti-corruption advocates in his native Kyrgyz Republic.  Ali’s reporting initially as a correspondent for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty – and his MediaHub team’s independent journalism — have resulted in legal victories, but they have come at a price including lawsuits, cyber attacks, harassment, and even credible death threats.  

This award demonstrates our support for anticorruption leaders who put their lives on the line to spur lasting change.  Secretary of State Antony Blinken was pleased to honor these 11 honorees, who inspire us all to stand up firmly to champion more equitable societies, in a December 7 event at the Department of State. 

For more from the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, you can follow us on Twitter @StateINL, Facebook @StateINL, and Instagram @StateINL.  

U.S. Department of State

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