Turning the tide on #corruption
1 year ago by Jack Evangelides

Turning the tide on #corruption

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Today, the 9th December, is apparently International Anti-Corruption Day. At Cedar Rose, every day is anti-corruption day! As information specialists for the Middle East and Africa, we are tasked with recognising and reporting on corrupt business practices and have been instrumental in changing attitudes against them in our own field of work. However, I`m not sure that most people who live in more developed parts of the world such as the UK, USA, Western Europe and most of Oceania realise just how entrenched in daily life corrupt practices are in this part of the world. So, let me give you some examples of how bribery and corruption have been commonplace in Lebanon and Syria and a reluctantly accepted part of daily life through a lack of alternative options over the past 20 years:
    
  • In 1995, to go into Lebanon with British passports for example, it was impossible to pass through checkpoints manned by Syrian guards at the airport, without subtly handing over cash.
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  • In 2004, it was not possible to import a container of goods to Lebanon without greasing the palm of the customs officers - even if all paperwork and goods were legal and in order.
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  • In 2005, a Lebanese company with less than 10 employees was issued with a telephone bill for one month for $30,000. When the proprietor questioned this bill compared with his normal usage of less than $500 per month, he was told by a lawyer who contacted the company on his behalf that for $8,000 the bill could be cleared. Otherwise it would remain outstanding and if not paid the business owner could be taken to court for non-payment and possibly jailed. The business owner had an excellent credit history and had paid all previous bills on time. There is only one telecom provider in Lebanon and it is state owned. The company`s head is currently making headlines for charges of alleged corruption.
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  • To leave Lebanon via Syria in 2006, when Lebanon came under Israeli bombardment, it was impossible to pass through the Syrian border point without handing over cash to several different border guards and officers. This was being done quite openly by all nationalities - there seemed to be no shame in accepting payments from those desperate to leave.
These are just a few examples I have come across outside of cases we have worked on, but I`m sure these types of incidents contributed to the Cedar Revolution (when the Lebanese communities came out in full force in the streets waving Lebanese flags on 14th March, 2005) and the Arab Spring demonstrations in Syria in 2011. The people who live in these countries are mostly well-educated individuals. They don`t choose to live in a corrupt society but are often faced with little choice but to pay their way or face dire consequences. And, as we know, these are by no means the most corrupt countries on earth. There has been a noticeable improvement since the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act of the USA, the Bribery Act of the UK and  the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)`s Anti-Bribery Convention but there is still a long way to go. Import/export partner countries of the Middle East and Africa have an important role to play in enforcing rules to outlaw corrupt practices, but the real changes need to come from within. When it is the government of a country and its` employees that are often the beneficiaries, one wonders whether things can ever really improve, but by questioning and investigating every transaction that takes place one by one - as is certainly the case here in Cyprus since 2013 - the perpetrators will surely begin to face justice or be forced to tow the line. Please follow our company page on Linked In to get regular updates. Have a glance at our related article on due diligence. Written by Christina Massaad, Managing Director *** The sole purpose of the article above is to generate public discussion, it has no intention to constitute legal advice. *** Sourced Image: All Wallpapers