Despite the challenging epidemiological circumstances, 2021 saw a number of important international events such as:
- the first ever special session of the UN General Assembly against corruption concluded with the adoption of the political declaration entitled “Our common commitment to effectively addressing challenges and implementing measures to prevent and combat corruption and strengthen international cooperation”;
- a regular G20 summit endorsed the Anti-Corruption Action Plan 2022-2024, High-Level Principles on Corruption related to Organized Crime, on Tackling Corruption in Sport and on Preventing and Combating Corruption in Emergencies, and other documents;
- the 9th session of the Conference of the States parties to the UN Convention against Corruption (CoSP9) which paid particular attention to anti-corruption education and training; in particular, a dedicated resolution tabled by the Russian Federation was adopted, a BRICS anti-corruption workshop for university lecturers and Anti-Corruption Academic Symposium focused on anti-corruption education and research were organised, and the Global Resource for Anti-Corruption Education and Youth Empowerment was launched.
Education, awareness-raising, academic research and studies
The topic of anti-corruption education and awareness-raising was not only on the CoSP9agenda but it was also put in practice.
In particular, the International Anti-Corruption Academy launched two important courses developed with the participation of experts of the Anti-Corruption Centre of the Higher School of Economics University (hereinafter, the Centre): a course on using asset disclosure to detect indicators of corruption and a course on handling conflicts of interest in the public sector.
Furthermore, steps were taken to ensure that a wide range of target audiences have better access to publications and documents on anti-corruption. In particular, the non-profit organisation Global Integrity launched a digital library under the research programme “Anti-Corruption Evidence”, a dedicated webpage containing all materials of the G20 Anti-Corruption Working Group was created, and a database of UN anti-corruption documents was developed.
The pandemic did not hamper the dynamic of research activities.
A number of reports providing general analysis of the effectiveness of anti-corruption measures adopted and recommendations on how to enhance it in specific regions, including the Balkans, Latin America, and the Commonwealth were released; GRECO published its annual report on the 5th evaluation round in Europe and the United States.
Additionally, multiple analytical reports concerning some narrow topics or exploring specific anti-corruption instruments were released. These are, in particular:
- liability for illicit enrichment;
- use of non-trial resolutions;
- employment of public procurement exclusion systems as a penalty for corruption crimes;
- safeguarding sport from corruption: reports by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the International Partnership against Corruption in Sport, and the Global Report on Corruption in Sport developed with the participation of over 180 experts from across the world under the guidance of UNODC;
- protection of corruption whistleblowers;
- use of machine learning to assess corruption risks and develop a corporate compliance system;
- employment of fiduciary management mechanisms to counter corruption;
- anti-corruption in de-democratising regimes;
- recovery of proceeds of corruption.
Some researchers focused their attention on more specific topics: for example, the 2021 Ig Nobel Prize was awarded for the study on the correlation between the level of corruption in a country and the weight of its ministers, the U4 Anti-Corruption Resource Centre analysed the ten commonly cited statistics on the scale and impact of corruption, and experts of the Higher School of Economics University estimated the damage caused by corruption in public procurement to the State.
Besides studies, a number of anti-corruption rankings, including the Corruption Perceptions Index, Index of Business Corruption Risk and Government Defence Integrity Index were released; some practical anti-corruption tools such as the platform for countering corruption in public procurement, a guide for automated risk analysis of anti-corruption declarations, and a tool for assessing corruption risks were developed.
In 2021, special attention was paid to the fight against transnational corruption and other related topics both at the international level and in specific countries.
In particular, the OECD revised, for the first time since 2009, its Recommendation for Further Combating Bribery of Foreign Public Officials in International Business Transactions, having supplemented it by the provisions on the penalties for passive bribery, waiver of compliance defense and wider employment of non-trial resolutions by member countries.
The Council of Europe released a report on non-conviction-based confiscation of unexplained wealth which is often used as a tool to counter transnational crime.
The UN High Level Panel on International Financial Accountability, Transparency and Integrity for Achieving the 2030 Agenda released a final report on the outcome of its activities in 2020 which addresses the issues of the prevention of and the fight against transnational corruption, including beneficial ownership transparency, improvement of international cooperation mechanisms and liability of enablers.
In 2021, the latter topic gained new impetus due to the disclosure of the Pandora Papers containing information about offshore assets of hundreds of politicians and oligarchs and the use of different facilitators to move and conceal such assets. As a consequence, some aspects of regulation of the activities of enablers were considered by the experts of the Centre.
The measures to counter transnational corruption were adopted by a number of foreign countries.
In particular, the United Kingdom introduced a mechanism allowing law enforcement officers to receive electronic information for investigations from abroad and adopted regulations on sanctions against serious corruption such as bribery of foreign public officials and misappropriation of property by foreign public officials, whereas the Serious Fraud Office was deprived of its powers to compel the production of documents held outside the UK in the framework of its investigations.
Mozambique adopted a law defining the procedure for confiscating proceeds of crime.
The United States Securities and Exchange Commission was authorised to impose sanctions in the form of returning ill-gotten funds also in the foreign bribery cases. Moreover, the U.S. law enforcement bodies continued their aggressive action in investigating into and holding liable foreign companies in transnational corruption cases (in particular, in 2021, the Russian corporation MTS was again under investigation due to the alleged violations of the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act) and paid particular attention to transnational corruption in the first ever U.S. Strategy on Countering Corruption. The methods employed by the U.S. authorities and their real objectives in prosecuting for corruption were unveiled in the book by Frédéric Pierucci, a former senior manager for Alstom, which was published in Russian this year.
The recovery of proceeds of crimes, including corruption, particularly those committed at the international level, was another acute topic in 2021.
Criminal and administrative liability
A number of foreign countries adopted measures for enhancing the effectiveness of criminal and other forms of liability for corruption.
In particular, East Timor adopted a new anti-corruption law that, in particular, criminalised active and passive bribery, abuse of functions, failure to disclose conflicts of interest and reasonably explain the origin of wealth, and other corruption crimes in the public sector.
Kazakhstan amended its criminal legislation, introducing a special procedure for imposing penalties on law enforcement officers, individuals holding important public positions in law enforcement bodies, and judges.
The amendments introduced in China’s Criminal Code provided for more severe penalties for non-public officials, while those made to Ecuador’s Criminal Code and Bolivia’s anti-corruption legislation increased the responsibility of officials and introduced liability of legal persons.
Brazil amended its legislation thereby establishing administrative liability for corruption offences.
The Supreme Court of Nepal limited the powers of the Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority to conduct sting operations, an instrument whose employment in countering corruption crimes has been intensely debated for a long time.
Besides having amended the criminal legislation, foreign countries adopted measures for improving anti-corruption standards for public officials.
For instance, the United Kingdom published the recommendations for changing the regulation of enforcement of ethical standards and rules of conduct in the public sector, France released the Guide on the Detection and Management of Conflicts of Interest in Organisations, and Ukraine adopted the law extending the anti-corruption standards to the “oligarchs” and aimed at preventing conflicts of interest generating substantial influence of politicians, media outlets and big businesses on public decision-making, and introduced amendments to the anti-corruption law concerning the participation of officials in corporate governing bodies, transfer of securities to trust management and declaration of property.
Brazil changed the rules regulating the submission of information on assets and conflicts of interest, and Burkina Faso launched an online-platform for filing electronic anti-corruption declarations. In the run-up to the Lunar New Year, South Korea relaxed the rules governing the acceptance of gifts by officials, whereas the Vatican, on the contrary, tightened the restrictions on the acceptance of gifts and introduced the obligation to disclose assets and interests.
The fight against corruption in organisations was an equally important topic for foreign countries in 2021.
In particular, Portugal imposed the obligation to adopt corruption prevention measures on certain categories of public and private sector organisations, Brazil introduced the requirement to implement compliance programmes for the organisations winning important public procurement tenders, Lithuania incorporated in its anti-corruption legislation a number of requirements related to corruption prevention for public bodies and public sector organisations, and Peru and France produced recommendations for developing and implementing corporate compliance programmes.
Additionally, in furtherance to the proposals on how to improve the anti-corruption law, France drafted a bill that, in particular, clarifies the obligation of public bodies, local authorities, public entities and organisations fulfilling public functions to adopt anti-corruption measures.
The Portal addressed compliance matters as well. In particular, useful resources that can be used to raise awareness about compliance were updated: new publications were added to the Publications section and links to the websites on the fight against corruption in the business sector were provided.
The protection of persons reporting corruption and other offences was another acute topic in 2021.
In particular, Transparency International analysed how the EU member States were actually putting their domestic legislation in line with Directive 2019/1937 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 23 October 2019 on the protection of persons who report breaches of Union law whose provisions the EU member States were to incorporate in their domestic law by the end of 2021; Uzbekistan and the United States adopted the legal acts providing for the possibility to reward whistleblowers, and Ukraine considered the launch of a Single Whistleblowing Portal.
Other legal novelties in foreign countries
Some countries saw changes in the functioning of their anti-corruption and oversight bodies: China, for instance, defined the status of officers of anti-corruption commissions and the procedure for applying anti-corruption standards to them, Ukraine clarified the procedure for the functioning of the National Anti-Corruption Bureau, and South Africa introduced the amendments to its legislation aimed at countering corruption in audits.
The Russian Federation
In 2021, the country also adopted an important strategic document, the National Anti-Corruption Plan from 2021 to 2024 (hereinafter, the Plan) which spans such a long period for the first time. The tasks of the new Plan are targeted, in particular, at plugging the existing legal gaps detected thanks to the analysis of the law enforcement practices of the previous years: some of them concern specific mechanisms and provide, among other things, for the increase in the sources of information and access to them with a view to enhancing the effectiveness of anti-corruption verifications, others are related to more conceptual matters such as the revision of conflict-of-interest regulations and systematisation of anti-corruption legislation.
To facilitate the navigation of the tasks assigned under the Plan, the Centre developed the dedicated infographics where the tasks are grouped in accordance with their subject and designated entities.
However, the new Plan does not address some important topics. In particular, in spite of the fact that the amendments broadening the definition of an “official” and expanding criminal liability for corruption crimes to the employees of not only the joint-stock companies whose major shareholder is the State, a Russian region or a municipality but also to the joint-stock companies “controlled” by them as defined by the law were introduced to the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation, the expansion of anti-corruption standards and the enforcement of disciplinary liability measures with respect to the employees of such organisations remains an open question.