Corruption principal cause of poverty, inequality in developing countries: NAB chief

Javed Iqbal says lack of political will and delays continue to impede effective int’l cooperation in asset recovery

News Desk June 04, 2021

National Accountability Bureau (NAB) Chairman Justice (retd) Javed Iqbal on Friday said that the flight of vast resources from developing countries to developed ones is a principal cause of under-development, poverty, inequality and political instability.

Addressing a special session against corruption at the United Nations General Assembly, he quoted a recent report of the Financial Accountability, Transparency and Integrity (FACTI) which revealed that due to political and official corruption as well as crime and tax evasion, trillions of dollars flow out of developing countries each year.

"$7 trillion in stolen assets are parked in the financial 'haven' countries and jurisdictions," he said while quoting the report.

Iqbal said that the flight of these vast resources from the developing countries is a principal cause of their underdevelopment, poverty, inequality and political instability. "Corruption is estimated to cost the world at least $2.6 trillion annually, approximately 5 per cent of the global gross domestic product (GDP)," he added.

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It is estimated that $1.26 trillion is lost by developing countries to corruption, bribery, theft and tax evasion each year, he said, adding that this is approximately nine times official development assistance funding.

In order to reinforce the global fight against corruption, the NAB chairman said, it is vital to strengthen international cooperation and efficiently prevent, detect, investigate and prosecute corruption, as well as to apply effective, proportionate and dissuasive penalties and recover criminal assets.

"Fighting corruption is a fundamental precondition for upholding the rule of law, peace and security, achieving sustainable development and respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms," he said, adding, "It is also an integral part of the international commitment to end poverty, curb illicit financial flows and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity."

Iqbal also said that Pakistan is pleased to note the increasing significance of the United Nations Convention against corruption in addressing the common challenge of corruption at the global level. "We continue to attach high priority to the fight against corruption and believe that it should be prevented in all its forms and a culture of rejection of corrupt practices should be fostered at all levels."

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The NAB chief said that asset recovery is one of the fundamental principles of the UNCAC and it is a matter of high priority for Pakistan. "Despite explicit articles of the UNCAC, there seems to be an increase in the barriers and challenges in the process of asset recovery and return to the countries of origin."

He further said that lack of political will, unnecessary delays, procedural complexities, bureaucratic hurdles and legal barriers in requested states, as well as high cost of asset recovery, continue to impede effective international cooperation in the area of asset recovery.

Importantly, he added, the management, administration and utilisation of the returned assets is the right and responsibility of the requesting state and that the recovered assets should be returned without conditionalities and in full respect of the sovereign rights of the states of origin.

In the context of current global challenges, Iqbal said, new commitments are urgently needed which are bold, clear and concrete. "Member states need to actively explore innovative ideas and initiatives to strengthen the existing international framework to prevent corruption and to end impunity."

He said that the special session is an opportunity for all to explore and develop the ideas further, particularly on the following priority areas:

  • Immediate return of stolen assets;
  • Penalties on the financial institutions, lawyers and accountants, and other “enablers” of corruption, crime and tax evasion;
  • Disclosure of the “beneficial ownership” of companies;
  • A global minimum corporate tax;
  • Fair digital taxation;
  • Review and revision of unequal investment treaties; and
  • A coherent, transparent and inclusive mechanism for monitoring illicit financial flows set up under the United Nations.

For its part, the NAB chairman said, Pakistan’s commitment to eradicating corruption remains clear and firm. "We have established a comprehensive legal and institutional framework for controlling and combating corruption."

He said that the country has taken steps over the years to improve institutional capacity and align domestic laws with international norms and standards embodied in the UNCAC. "We are also pleased to note increasing understanding for the role of parliaments in addressing corruption in all its manifestations. Pakistan’s resolution on the subject was adopted with consensus by the 8th Conference of Parties to UNCAC in its meeting held in Abu Dhabi in December 2019," he added.

He said that Pakistan strongly appreciates the General Assembly’s timely decision to put special focus on the problem of corruption through this special session.

"We sincerely hope that the discussions and the political declaration to be adopted during this session will instil a new vigour to the global fight against corruption," he further said.