Swiss attitude to corruption has ‘changed considerably’

NGO keeping an eye on corruption Keystone

The transformation in banking secrecy and recent arrests of allegedly corrupt FIFA officials in Zurich have changed Switzerland’s position on issues relating to corruption, according to the head of Transparency International.

Paula Dupraz-Dobias,

“What is happening in Switzerland on money laundering and corruption is interesting. Things have changed considerably in Switzerland, and the FIFA case is one of the proofs,” José Ugaz said on Wednesday during an online interview organised by the International Bar Association.

Ugaz, who joined the anti-corruption organisation in 2014, agreed that moves to pass a bill in the Swiss parliament, dubbed Lex Fifa, to crack down on corruption within international sports organisations, are a positive step in controlling abuses within domestically based groups.

He said it was important, however, that members of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) do more against impunity, pointing out that only 30 of 41 countries had limited enforcement on impunity.

Ugaz also commented on banks involved in fraud, saying fines may not be enough to punish corrupt executives and financial institutions sheltering money originating from illegal practices.

“We should consider more sanctions which would limit personal liberty in big cases of corruption,” he said.

Banks, he added, were powerful and represented “an elite in society closely linked to politicians”. Therefore the drafting of relevant criminal law was complicated and required strong political will, he said.

FIFA impunity

When asked whether US banks should not have raised alarm bells regarding allegations of money laundering by FIFA officials, Ugaz replied: “People who know the banking sector know that banks are penetrated by corrupt individuals”.

In 2010, the NGO published a report on corruption in sports and requested that FIFA President Sepp Blatter appoint an independent commission to review its practices. A report by Michael Garcia, commissioned by FIFA to investigate the organisation, was never published in its entirety by the world football’s governing body.

“As it was a private organisation, FIFA was surrounded by impunity,” Ugaz said.

The head of the NGO recalled his cooperation with Switzerland when he prosecuted several major fraud cases in Peru, including those against former president Alberto Fujimori and his intelligence chief Vladimiro Montesinos.

He said that during the cases he had the “full support” of Switzerland. Fujimori is currently serving a 21-year prison sentence.

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