21 July 2019, Sunday, 8:37
We are in the same boat

The Council of Europe: Belarus Withholds Information About Corruption in the Country


The Council of Europe's anti-corruption body warns potential investors.

Belarus does not meet anti-corruption standards and withholds information about corruption in the country. This statement was made by the Council of Europe's anti-corruption body. Potential investors and partners of Belarus are recommended to be more cautious when dealing with officials, ng.ru writes.

The Council of Europe's anti-corruption body, the Group of States against Corruption (GRECO), made a loud statement on a high level of corruption in Belarus. The organization stresses that it's the first time it had to take such a step, as the Belarusian side ignores all appeals in this regard.

In particular, Minsk has not agreed to publish a report on the country's compliance with anti-corruption standards, which is prepared annually by GRECO in respect of countries that have ratified the COE Criminal Law Convention.

For several years now, Belarus has been the only country - member of GRECO - whose government does not allow publication of any reports of this organization about itself. In previous years, GRECO has only published summaries of reports on Belarus. They noted that the anti-corruption recommendations, which GRECO addressed to Minsk back in 2012, were not implemented at an appropriate level.

There were 24 such recommendations. The organization stresses that only four of them have been implemented. Recommendations relate to independence promotion of the judiciary, Prosecutor's Office and operational autonomy of law enforcement agencies. GRECO experts also propose to limit the immunity of certain categories of persons, to expand provisions on bribery involving concepts of "offer", "promise", "request" and "acceptance of an offer or promise", to cover material and non-material advantages, and cases when a bribe is given to a third party not to an official.

"Continued neglect of GRECO rules and regulations casts slurs on the commitment of the Belarusian authorities to prevent and combat corruption, as well as on cooperation with GRECO in general," the statement says. The organization has warned all its members to "take this situation into account when contacting Belarus". GRECO experts expect that the pressure from partners, and the statement of the Council of Europe's anti-corruption body will affect the Belarusian authorities and they will change the situation.

The state of corruption in the world is monitored not only at the level of the Council of Europe. For example, Transparency International, the international anti-corruption movement, conducts its own monitoring. Its rating shows the Corruption Perception Index in the public sector of 180 countries and is ranked on a scale from 0 (seriously corrupt) to 100 (total absence of corruption). In turn, the authors of the rating rely on the research of other international organizations - such as the World Bank, Freedom House, the Bertelsmann Foundation and others. The rating published this January shows that Belarus fell to 70th place in 2018 from 68th a year ago. By the way, Russia occupies 138th position, Ukraine - 120th, and Poland - 36th.

Belarus has recently been shaken by corruption scandals. In addition to almost daily detentions of officials for bribery, entire corruption networks and schemes in certain industries are now being revealed. Last year, "the case of the "Ashmyany Customs" was notorious. The system of payment for crossing the border was clearly worked out. The case involved about 60 people.

There was so much money that one of defendants had $1.8 million under the bathtub in his apartment. At the end of last year and beginning of this year, scandalous "medical cases" were under way. As it turned out, medical officials, including chief physicians of some hospitals, took kickbacks from equipment suppliers. The case involved 33 people, and the total amount of bribes exceeded 350.000 dollars. The corruption scheme was revealed even at the level of school canteens. It was formed by an official of the Minsk Executive Committee. School canteens' staff paid him monthly for the extension of contracts. The official also took products.

Speaking of reasons for mass corruption, experts note that the main one is artificially created by the state. They claim that such a corrupt scheme is not accidental in Belarus - it provides for damaging information on any official or head of a state enterprise. It can be used at any moment, which makes people obedient. It is not by chance that there were no officials of highest ranks - ministers and their deputies - among defendants at Customs and in the Ministry of Health. While the scale of disclosed schemes is that it was almost impossible to hide them from higher officials, local observers argue. So far, the "carpet bombing" has been going on around "big bosses", but they clearly realize that one day it may affect them as well.