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Samsung heir arrest a warning on bribery

Corruption linked to political power is under scrutiny, according to TRACE International, at a time that sees Samsung's heir sentenced to five years in jail for bribing politicians.

Emerging markets have grappled with bribery and corruption as the increase in commodity sales have been a challenge to the ethics of doing business around the world, the TRACE report states.

According to the 2016 Global Enforcement Report, the US amplified its recent trend of increased enforce­ment actions concerning alleged bribery of foreign officials, undertaking a total of 30 such actions in 2016, twice as many as in 2015, and three times the 2013 count.

The US is leading enforcement actions with almost 70% concerning bribery of foreign officials, dominated by Asia with 46%, the Americas 25%, Europe 17%, Africa 8% and the Middle East 4%.

Action against corrupt government officials is rising globally. In its 2016 Global Enforcement Report, the anti-bribery organisation observes a doubling in US enforcements last year and non-US actions doubled since 2015. "2016 was a record year for global anti-bribery enforcement," said Alexandra Wrage, president of TRACE International. "The United States has been concluding enforcement actions at an unprecedented rate, other jurisdictions have been stepping up their prosecution rates as well, and new anti-corruption laws continue to be passed worldwide."

American prosecutors have been penalising companies for bribery offences for 30 years. It appears from this report that they are not slowing down. US enforcement actions doubled in 2016. Since the FCPA’s passing in 1977, TRACE calculates that 70% of all enforcements were made in the US. Of these, 46% concerned bribes paid to Asian officials and a quarter to civil servants in the Americas.

Now in South Korea a bribery scandal that has seen the president pushed out over corruption, a major business leader Lee Jae-yong, who’s the acting chairman of Samsung, has been sent to prison for five years after offering bribes.

The billionaire is South Korea’s third-richest man and heir to the Samsung empire. He made several donations to foundations run by the deposed president Park Geun-hye in return for favours.

Courts are under pressure in South Korea as anger grows over the cosy relationship between big business and politics, and the scandal around Park ended with her impeachment.

Worldwide the trend is against corrupt leadership.

In South Africa the ruling party president Jacob Zuma is also under extreme pressure regarding his relationship with a group of businessmen who’ve been accused of alleged bribery and corruption. The Gupta family has left the country following investigation by media and calls by opposition parties to probe their role in the awarding of state contracts with state-owned enterprises.

And in China, the president there has made the fight against corruption one of his main projects since he rose to prominence in 2012. President Xi Jinping says he wants to uproot the networks of corruption that have damaged his country since the revolution. The campaign has targeted what are known as the ‘tigers’ (those high level officials that commit grand corruption) and ‘flies’ (more junior officials, whose petty theft saps the political system of moral strength).

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