Fugitive US intelligence leaker Edward Snowden has become the winner of this year’s Whistleblower Award established by German human rights organizations, the German branch of Transparency International said in a statement.
“This year’s winner of the Whistleblower Award is Edward Snowden,” the statement posted on TI Germany website on Monday said.
The award, established in 1999, is sponsored by the Association of German Scientists (VDW) and the German branch of the International Association of Lawyers Against Nuclear Arms (IALANA).
A VDW spokesperson told RIA Novosti on Monday that the award money, amounting to 3,000 euros, would be passed to Snowden through his representatives – either a lawyer or a “friendly” organization.
Snowden, who faces prosecution in the United States for leaking highly sensitive classified data about the US National Security Agency’s surveillance activities, submitted a request for temporary asylum in Russia last week, having been holed up in the transit zone of a Moscow airport since arriving from Hong Kong on June 23.
He is still waiting for a decision by the Russian migration authorities.
Washington has repeatedly called on Moscow to reject Snowden’s request for asylum and send him back to the United States to stand trial on charges of espionage and theft.
The giant American retailer, which also has stores in Brazil, Argentina, Chile and several Central American countries, has been accused of systematically paying bribes in Mexico that total more than $24 million over the course of several years. The bribes were used to get permission to build in places where it is illegal to do so.
There is ample evidence that Walmart was not forced to pay bribes to do business, but rather that the company actively encouraged corruption in the country by establishing an aggressive policy of offering bribes to Mexican officials who broke the laws and regulations of the country.
The case is being investigated in the United States and Mexico, and the company is facing several lawsuits from pension funds that have invested in the company’s stock. The eventual sentences and fines could have a major impact not just on Walmart but also on Mexico – the company is Mexico’s largest private employer, with 2,275 stores and 221,000 employees.
An internal investigation by Walmart of its 27 international subsidiaries seems to have revealed evidence of bribes by Walmart in Brazil as well as China and India.
Walmart is not unique. British bank HSBC helped launder money for Mexican drug cartels for years. And people still remember the case of IBM in Argentina 15 years ago, when IBM paid officials at the state-owned Banco Nacion a total of $37 million in exchange for a contract to renovate the bank’s computer systems.
All of these cases – and hundreds of others with less publicity – hurt not only the companies involved but also the image of the region. The last Transparency International report only ranked three Latin American countries – Chile, Uruguay and Costa Rica – above the world average for corruption. All of the other countries are perceived as having high corruption problems, and Venezuela is one of the worst of in the world, ranked 165 out of 176 countries.
Subverting the system
The development of a country depends on governments that establish and enforce rules and regulations that are the same for everyone, as well as a free-market system where all of the competitors play by the rules. When you can get an advantage by paying bribes, that system is subverted. And when the person who gets that advantage is Walmart, the victims are numerous, starting with their direct local competitors and including other potential international investors, who might think twice about investing in the market.
When a giant like HSBC is laundering drug money, it distorts the financial markets and subverts the democratic system.
The United States has taken a step in the right direction by legally punishing companies that commit bribery abroad. The situation would be even better if all countries adopted similar legislation.
The so-called multi-Latinos, the select club of Latin American multinationals, have the task of being agents of change, and should explicitly state a commitment to fight corruption in their statutes. These statutes should also include ethical standards to abide by when doing business throughout Latin America.
Latin American governments should establish an agreement to standardize corruption laws and penalties.
International development banks, like the World Bank and the Interamerican Development Bank, have taken a step in the right direction. Since a couple of years ago, any company that is guilty of corruption is barred from participating in projects financed by either bank.
The task sounds complicated and difficult, but it is worth it. Many studies have found a clear relationship between corruption, poverty and under-development – equal to the distortions produced in the way resources are distributed. It is obvious that corruption hurts countries where it takes place, and we need political will, both on the part of governments and business people, to get rid of this scourge.
Mr Devitt Tansparency International Ireland
lack of action on the Moriarty tribunal’s findings has been blamed for Ireland slipping down a world ranking on corruption perception.
The group warns the results could hurt Ireland’s economic recovery by turning investors away, frightened by the idea that Government decisions are not been taken in a fair and equitable manner. “Small, open economies are much more exposed to reputational risk than their more powerful counterparts,” said John Devitt, chief executive of Transparency International Ireland.
The ranking is the lowest ever for Ireland and is an 11-place descent from just two years ago.
The index – which draws on surveys of experts and businesspeople – gives an assessment of a country’s political risk and is used by credit rating agency Standard and Poor’s as a way of measuring the potential for sovereign debt default.
The Moriarty and Mahon tribunals showed how corruption and payments to politicians existed at Government level, while the lack of holding people to account was having an effect on how the country was perceived, the group said.
“There appears to have been very little action taken on foot of the publication of the final Moriarty tribunal report, while the Taoiseach’s decision to make public appearances with Denis O’Brien after the publication of the report will have done our international reputation no favours,” said Mr Devitt.
Countries topping the index are Denmark, Finland and New Zealand – all jointly tied in first place. Other European states ahead of Ireland include Switzerland, the Netherlands, Iceland, Luxembourg, Germany, Belgium, the UK and France. Uruguay is ranked 20 while the Bahamas is ranked 22. Afghanistan, North Korea and Somalia all rank at the bottom, in 174th place.
The group urged the Government to bring more transparency to the public sector, along with reforms to give the Oireachtas more powers. “Our reputation for cronyism and other forms of corruption will drive many honest businesses towards more open and well regulated economies’, Mr Devitt added.
Transparency International Ireland in 2009 estimated the Government could be losing €1 billion a year in investment from abroad because of its relatively low position in the index, which then was 14th place.
The Moriarty tribunal in 1997 began investigating payments to politicians. It found businessman Denis O’Brien made payments to former minister for communications Michael Lowry, who “secured the winning” of a mobile phone licence in 1995 for him. Both men deny the finding