Last week Eurasianet reported that tens of thousands of Uzbeks are trying to leave southern Kyrgyzstan. They were caught in ethnic rioting earlier this year. Now, crooked bureacrats are using red tape to extract bribes from those wanting to escape, making it expensive for everyone and impossible for some.
During the latest violence, many of the Uzbeks were burned out of their homes. The fires left them without documents. “When they appeal to the authorities to get new ones, they face deliberate obstacles,” a local human rights lawyer said.
The cost of obtaining the right documents has gone up 500%, according to the story. Many can’t afford the bribes and are trapped in the country, sometimes separated from family members in Russia or other countries.
This type of petty corruption — extortion, really — shows why fighting graft is always the right thing to do. And why foreign investors should try to raise the bar wherever they do business. All corruption, petty and grand, home-grown and imported, strips local residents of their rights, and the poorest suffer most.
After Siemens pleaded guilty to global bribery violations in December 2008, the DOJ’s Matthew Friedrich summed up the moral obligation this way:
For let there be no doubt that corruption is not a victimless offense. Corruption is not a gentlemen’s agreement where no one gets hurt. People do get hurt. And the people who are hurt the worst are often residents of the poorest countries on the face of the earth . . . .
And as Elizabeth Spahn has said about corruption:
It frustrates efforts to achieve very basic human rights. Bribery skews purchasing decisions making a mockery of any hope of a rational market. If the economists are to be believed, bribery significantly exacerbates the growing global gap between the unimaginably rich and the desperately poor.
Whoever doubts the value of the FCPA and laws like it should consider the victims of bribery. Then the fight against international public corruption makes sense.