Jul 28, 2017 News
To a large extent, law enforcement and the judiciary are to be blamed for the high levels of corruption in Guyana and the wider Caribbean. This is so because it will only take a few good examples to be made out of corrupt officials to send a message that the crime would not be tolerated.
That is the view held by a few international experts, particularly United Kingdom’s Dr. Perry Stanislas and Christopher Camponovo of Halcyon Law Group. This view was aired during the recent symposium that examined the relationship between corruption and oil.
At that forum, Dr. Stanislas noted that corrupt behaviour is determined by the relative strengths or weaknesses of institutions. It deprives a nation of much needed revenue, he added.
The security expert and University lecturer made that point before referring to an article published in this newspaper in 2012. The article is one in which Transparency International labeled Guyana as the most corrupt country in the English-speaking Caribbean.
While things are a little better now as regards Guyana’s standing, the country still has a long way to go. Dr. Stanislas said that the desired change will not be achieved unless the crime is no longer tolerated.
“(Guyana) needs to develop an attitude that if you steal from the country we (the law) will be coming after you,” said Dr. Stanislas.
Dr. Stanislas singled out Jeffery Archer, a former British Minister, famous author and wealthy businessman; Martha Stewart, successful business woman and entrepreneur; Conrad Black, former owner of British Daily Telegraph, and several famous hotels/businessman and asked what was the common thread.
Answer, “These are rich powerful people but they all spent time in jail; that tells us something about the country they come from.”
Dr. Stanislas said that Jeffery Archer was a personal and very close friend of Margret Archer but their friendship ended when Archer went down a not so clean path.
“These parts of the world are unlike the Caribbean where politicians associate themselves with criminals. When you go wrong, they will no longer send you a Christmas card, they will not go to your child’s christening and that is how it is supposed to be.”
He said that the politicians just do not associate themselves with criminals “so it is worse if the criminal is a politician.”
Dr. Stanislas then asked the symposium to name a few rich or powerful people who have been jailed in the Caribbean. There was silence, and then one man shouted, ‘Stanford!’
Robert Allen Stanford is an American former financier and sponsor of professional sports who is serving a 110-year federal prison sentence, having been convicted of charges that his investment company was a massive Ponzi scheme and fraud.
Though he is American he lived in Antigua before being jailed. That is where the mix up came. It was soon clarified that Stanford does not count as coming from the Caribbean and in any case it was America that brought him to justice.
Dr. Stanislas then asked the question again, “Can you name a powerful wealthy person in the Caribbean that served a sentence for fraud or corruption.” The silence returned until another man pointed to a case in Granada. It turns out that Granada is the only Caribbean jurisdiction that has jailed a rich white collar criminal.
Dr. Stanislas said that that speaks volume of the Caribbean system. “What is wrong with the Caribbean justice system and law enforcement? Dr. Stanislas said that it is the weakness in these institutions that is attracting the crime.
Christopher Camponovo, of Halcyon Law Group, noted that very often in Nigeria corrupt politicians are arrested, placed before the court and sent to jail. He said, however, that the problem is that there are so many of them.
He said that this is one area where Guyana’s small population comes in handy. “It will be easier for Guyana with a smaller population, smaller business community, government, etc. you only have to set a few examples,” said Camponovo.
He said that no strategy to tackle corruption can ever be complete without prosecution. “You have to bust some of the bad guys to send a very clear message to people that corruption would not be tolerated. That’s a combination of civil actions and criminal actions.”
He continued, “Where there is a culture where it is accepted any anti-corruption strategy will fail. But in some ways I am an optimist; I do think cultures can be changed and I think the people of Guyana have it much better than the people of Nigeria in the sense that it is a smaller country, population is smaller, institutions are smaller and in some ways more manageable, in Nigeria everyday someone is prosecuted but nothing seems to be changing.”
Camponovo said that if wrongdoers are made to face the fire and are held responsible for theft in a way that respects the rule of law, respects judicial and prosecutorial processes it will effect real change.”
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