Mauritius

9. Corruption

The prevalence of corruption in Mauritius is low by regional standards, but graft and nepotism nevertheless remain concerns and are increasingly a source of public frustration. Several high-profile cases involving corruption have reinforced the perception that corruption exists at the highest political levels, despite the fact that Mauritian law provides for criminal penalties for corruption by officials.  According to Transparency Mauritius, the absence of a law regulating the financing of political parties fuels corruption.  A former prime minister was arrested in 2015 on allegations of money laundering, though courts have since dismissed all charges.  The state prosecutors appealed the last dismissal in late 2019 and the appeal is pending.  A minister in the previous government stepped down in 2016 after allegations of bribery.  In March 2017, allegations surfaced concerning possible political interference in the Financial Services Commission’s issuance of an investment banking license to Angolan billionaire Alvaro Sobrinho, who is being investigated for alleged corruption in Portugal.  In March 2018, the president of Mauritius resigned after press reported that she bought apparel, jewelry, and a laptop computer with a credit card provided by an NGO financed by the same Angolan businessman.    In June 2020, the prime minister dismissed his deputy prime minister following allegations of bribery and corruption in a public energy contract.  In February 2021, the minister of commerce stepped down amid allegations of corruption and abuse of power.

Investors should know that while the constitution and law require arrest warrants to be based on sufficient evidence and issued by a magistrate, police may detain an individual for up to 21 days under a “provisional charge” based on a reasonable suspicion, with the concurrence of a magistrate.  Two French businessmen claimed that in February 2015 authorities held them against their will.  A U.S. investor has been unable to leave Mauritius since February 1, 2020, without charges filed against him.

In 2002, the government adopted the Prevention of Corruption Act, which led to the establishment of an Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC).  ICAC has the power to investigate corruption and money laundering offenses and can also seize the proceeds of corruption and money laundering.  The Director of ICAC is nominated by the prime minister.  The Good Governance and Integrity Reporting Act of 2015 was announced as a measure to recover “unexplained wealth” and came into force in early 2016.  Critics of the act dislike its presumption of guilt, requiring the accused to demonstrate a lawful source of questionable assets, as well as the application of the law retroactively for seven years. The 2018 Declaration of Assets Act (DoA) entered into force in June 2019 and defines which public officials are required to declare assets and liabilities to the ICAC.  These public officials include members of the National Assembly, mayors, chairpersons and chief executive officers of state-owned enterprises and statutory bodies, among others.

Mauritius is the 52nd least-corrupt nation out of 175 countries, according to the 2019 Corruption Perceptions Index reported by Transparency International, up from 51st in 2018 and down from 54th in 2017.  However, Mauritius retained its first rank in overall governance in Africa for the 12th consecutive year, according to the 2018 Ibrahim Index of African Governance.

U.S. investors, in conversations with embassy personnel, have not identified corruption as an obstacle to investment in the country.  They have, however, encountered attempts for bribery.

Although the country lacks laws on political party financing, Mauritius has legislation to combat corruption by public officials. These include laws dealing with declaration of assets, asset recovery, prevention of corruption, anti-money laundering, and criminal offences related to abuse of office by public officials.

However, legal loopholes exist and enforcement is weak.  Allegations of corruption and misallocation of government contracts by public entities occurred in 2020, namely the use of emergency procurement procedures during the pandemic to allegedly enrich friends and family of those in power.

According to Transparency Mauritius, more companies have introduced control and risk management protocols, as well as adopting code of ethics and good business conduct, even if these do no target government officials.  The Prevention of Corruption Act targets mainly the public sector, but there is no whistleblower protection law.

Mauritius has ratified the UNCAC, but it has not yet adopted all the recommendations, for instance, the criminalization of corruption in the private sector.  According to Transparency Mauritius, NGOs involved in fighting corruption are not given enough protection and funding.

Resources to Report Corruption 

Navin Beekharry
Director-General
Independent Commission Against Corruption
Reduit Triangle, Moka, Mauritius
+230 402 6600
icacoffice@intnet.mu

Rajen Bablee
Director
Transparency Mauritius
4th Floor, Fon Sing Building, 12 Edith Cavell Street, Port Louis, Mauritius
+ 230 213 0796
transparency.mauritius@gmail.com

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