A Global Fight Against Grand Corruption

Posted 3rd May 2022

CMU-A Head Professor Emil Bolongaita and former Australian Foreign Minister Gareth Evans have co-authored an article to support a growing movement to establish an international anti-corruption court and called on Australia to support it.

Their write-up about the impacts of international corruption and Australia’s role to hold kleptocrats responsible for financial crimes was published by the Australian Financial Review on 29 April 2022.

The article observed that Australia has lost its leading reputation as a “good international citizen,” lagging behind other countries in areas like climate change action, foreign aid, and support for refugees and asylum seekers. But Australia now has an opportunity to step up and take a leading role in the establishment of an anti-corruption court to prosecute kleptocrats.

Kleptocracy, meaning the abuse of public office for private gain by national leaders, has devastating consequences for citizens of those countries, who are often deprived of access to resources they need to survive, including food, health care and foreign aid. While most countries do have anti-corruption laws, kleptocrats often have impunity because they control all institutions of accountability, including the police and the courts.

Former Australian Foreign Minister, Gareth Evans.

A proposed solution to this problem is the establishment of an International Anti-Corruption Court (IACC). The IACC, as it is currently envisioned, would employ investigators, prosecutors and judges experienced in dealing with complex financial crime and have the authority to prosecute heads of state along with anyone who knowingly assists them in committing grand corruption. Penalties would include fines and asset appropriation, and prevent kleptocrats from trading in or travelling to member states and countries, where they could be arrested.

The success of such an institution would rely on the support and participation of countries which are major financial centres – like the UK – where the inability to move money or assets would be a major deterrent for kleptocrats. Australia is a smaller player in this area, but would still be a significant asset to the IACC.

It’s time for Australia to take a strong leadership role, Professor Bolongaita and Professor Evans argue, both in the interest of global decency and restoring our reputation as good global citizens.