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Annual corruption award goes to….the Romanian parliament

Romanian parliament buildingThe Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) acknowledges each year the efforts of those who make our world a more crime and corruption-plagued place to live.

The nonprofit group that supports investigative reporters had countless candidates to choose from while sifting through the year’s instances of fraud, bribery, money laundering, human trafficking, drug smuggling, hacking and other nefarious activities.

But the 2013 winner of the Organized Crime and Corruption ‘Person of the Year’ is the Romanian parliament — which exempted itself from the country’s anti-corruption laws.

Early this month, the lawmakers approved amendments to Romania’s criminal code that gave themselves and others immunity from graft charges.

They voted without debate to declare the Romanian president, senators, lawyers and members of the lower chamber not ‘public officials’ and therefore exempt from indictment for bribery, abuse of office, conflict of interest and other corruption-related charges. And any officials already convicted of such charges could be exonerated.

The proposal cannot become law unless Romanian President Traian Basescu signs it, which seems unlikely after he voiced considerable concern. But the OCCRP points out that the damage has been done since government accountability and respect for the rule of law has been undermined.

The Romanian prosecutor’s office said the law contradicted international covenants including Europe’s 2002 Criminal Law Convention on Corruption and the 2004 United Nations’ Convention on Corruption.

Twenty-eight members of the Romanian parliament have been convicted or are on trial for corruption, and more than 100 Romanian mayors face trial for abusing their offices.

Runners up in the OCCRP’s race to the bottom included Darko Saric of the Serbian and Montenegrin crime groups. He allegedly built a new drug trade from Africa and South America to Europe by way of the Balkans.

Gulnara Karimova, daughter of Uzbekistan President Islam Karimov, was also considered. She allegedly took hundreds of millions of dollars in bribes in exchange for a telecom license to Swedish giant TeliaSonera — and spent some of the cash on luxury properties, including a chateau in France and a $20 million mansion in Geneva.

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Julie DiMauro is the executive editor of FCPA Blog and can be reached here.

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