November 1, 2003
Our federal government – to protect a Canadian multinational – is trying to thwart World Bank rules that would punish a company for international corruption. We need your help to encourage the World Bank to live up to its rules and to let Canada’s new prime minister, Paul Martin, know that we will expect more from Canada under his leadership.
The company is engineering giant Acres International of Toronto. In a landmark ruling – just reaffirmed by the appeal court – Acres was found guilty of bribing a foreign official in the tiny African country of Lesotho, in order to secure a lucrative World Bank contract in a $12 billion megaproject. Other engineering multinationals are also being tried in related cases with one, from Germany, also convicted. Under World Bank rules, Acres and other multinationals found guilty of corruption in a World Bank project should be barred from receiving future World Bank contracts. If they are barred, companies around the world will get the message that crime does not pay. The World Bank, after all, is the world’s largest development agency, and the standard setter for the world’s other agencies. A World Bank blacklist, for many companies, could be a death warrant. No more effective deterrent exists.
The World Bank’s stance on corruption, as stated by its president time and time again, has been crystal clear. “The cancer of corruption” must be eradicated, World Bank president James Wolfensohn said, because Third World development will otherwise fail.
Yet amazingly, his efforts to stamp out corruption are being countered by Canada’s representatives to the World Bank. One such official flatly told me that the Canadian government will not sit back and allow Acres – a company that the courts found guilty of a “premeditated and carefully planned criminal act” – to suffer the consequences. In fact, the effort to save Acres is widespread throughout the federal government. From internal e-mails and other correspondence that I obtained through our Access to Information law, it is clear that the Canadian government has mounted a major effort to protect Acres. Other federal agencies such as Export Development Canada, have confirmed that they will continue to finance Acres, despite its guilt.
The signal that our federal government is sending – business profits are more important than fighting corruption – is immoral and must be countered, for Canada’s own integrity and for the sake of the Third World countries, which desperately need honest development.
If you agree that corruption must be stamped out, please write to the World Bank today, to remind Mr. Wolfensohn of the importance of living up to his words. “If we are going to campaign against corruption outside the bank in our borrowing countries,” he said, “we have to be absolutely certain that we hold ourselves to the highest standards on the inside.” Tell Mr. Wolfensohn that you support his position and that you disagree with Canadian government efforts to undermine him.
Some factions within the bank are advising Mr. Wolfensohn to do the right thing. Others are telling him to bend to Canada’s wishes. Your e-mail today could make the difference by tipping him over to a moral position. Please contact him now, before he has made his decision and while the issue is still fresh with you.
And if you’re able, please also help us reach more people with this urgent message, by sending us a generous, tax creditable donation today.
Categories: Campaign Letters