France notes progress on global fight against corruption
Fight against terrorism – Fight against terrorism and corruption/opening of international meetings of anti-corruption authorities – Speech by M. François Hollande, President of the Republic (excerpts)
Paris, 14 June 2016
The fight against corruption is also a democratic requirement, because corruption affects the confidence everyone must have in the functioning of institutions, and at the same time undermines the international organizations tasked with laying down and enforcing rules. Finally, corruption dries up states’ financial revenues and therefore deprives them of resources to carry through the policies people are waiting for.
Financial losses linked to corruption account for roughly $1,000 billion a year; that’s a sizeable amount!
We see the effects in both the public and the private sphere, in both public contracts and commercial transactions.
I also want to look at what’s been done for several years and note progress. Significant steps have been taken in the fight against corruption. The first step was no doubt the most decisive: it was the one which ensured that the OECD Convention on Combating Bribery of Foreign Public Officials in International Business Transactions could be signed, right here in Paris, on 17 December 1997.
Then, in turn, the G20 and the World Bank joined in the process and, as time went on, we were able to see countries signing the convention and implementing the essential procedures and actions.
The OECD also set up a working group that assessed the implementation of what was expected of the signatory countries. For France, this working group recommended that our country equip itself with more effective legal tools when suspected corruption offences were committed abroad. I therefore acted accordingly, and in 2013 the government was able to present to Parliament a bill – which was adopted – enabling us to modernize the judicial authorities tasked with fighting corruption and adapt the legal and procedural rules in force in the area.
We created a judicial authority responsible for the fight against organized economic and financial crime: the financial prosecutor’s office. Its powers have these two characteristics: they cover the whole country and are limited to the most serious economic and financial offences, so that we can concentrate our resources and coordinate our efforts.
Today the financial prosecutor’s office – I want to pay tribute to it – is backed up by a team of 14 judges and specialized investigators and has been able to establish and strengthen links between offences that occur on national territory so as to conduct inquiries swiftly, identify individuals and bring them before the courts.
This same act of December 2013 enabled voluntary and non-governmental organizations whose purpose is to fight corruption to bring civil actions. We also increased the fines incurred by both individuals and legal entities.
We also wanted to protect those employees who whistleblow and report, in good faith, actions they may become aware of in the course of their duties which constitute an offence or a crime.
These reforms have been welcomed by the OECD. However, we wanted to go further, because there’s a link between corruption, tax evasion and money laundering. There again, we wanted it to be possible to increase the sanctions for tax evasion, particularly for bank accounts held abroad. We also wanted it to be possible to confiscate the assets of both legal entities and individuals.
We also established a public register of trusts so that we could prevent cases of concealment.
Here too, we’re expecting a great deal from the OECD, a great deal from this international cooperation, because in order for these procedures, these mechanisms to really work, we must regularly exchange information. This automatic exchange allows us to combat tax evasion effectively.
We also wanted to go further on transparency. Right now, while the international fight against corruption is being discussed here in Paris, legislation is being debated in Parliament to ensure greater transparency in economic life, with controls on lobbying, with a register of people lobbying the government going to be created and checked, because it will be kept by the High Authority for Transparency in Public Life.
As regards the prevention of corruption both in commercial transactions and in the awarding of procurement contracts, major operators will be under a greater obligation to have mechanisms for detecting and preventing corruption. There too, we’re going to create a new authority, the anti-corruption agency, which will be able to support businesses that initiate these mechanisms. Finally, we’ve removed obstacles to the powers of the French prosecuting authorities being deployed in relation to corruption and trafficking in influence when offences are committed abroad./.