Odious Debts

Stop bribing poor nations, judges demand

Carmel Rickard
The Sunday Times
April 11, 2004

Top judges in Lesotho this week made a strong call on the international community, and on funding agencies in particular, to punish companies engaged in corruption and ensure that bribery is stamped out.

The judges of Lesotho’s Appeal Court had been considering the case of the engineering giant Lahmeyer, which has been involved in the Lesotho Highlands Water project, and was convicted of bribery and fined more than R10-million.

The three appeal judges upheld Lahmeyer’s appeal against one of the convictions, but found it guilty of two additional counts and increased its fine to R12-million.

Their judgment comes after a series of corruption trials related to the building of the massive Lesotho Highlands dam project. The trials have exposed a network of bribery associated with international construction work.

The judges expressed their concern about the corruption and their determination that it be ended. They also appealed to funding agencies worldwide to tighten up their procedures so that corruption was no longer seen as standard practice.

They said that the evidence before them indicated “bribery on a massive scale”, not only by Lahmeyer but by other companies as well.

The judges said a court’s first duty was to “speak clearly about the abhorrence of the crime of bribery and its destructive impact on a society – particularly upon a developing society where poverty is still endemic”.

The judges were particularly critical of the “device” of “representative agreements”, which they had found were used extensively as mechanisms through which bribes were “clothed with contractual respectability”.

The court praised the Lesotho authorities for their political will and funding, which had made the investigation and trials possible.

Categories: Odious Debts

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s