Friday, October 06, 2006

Study: Switzerland Tops in Preventing Bribery

Transparency International released a study on Wednesday showing that Switzerland is the most effective among the world's leading exporting nations in preventing its firms from bribing. India came in last in the study.

The corruption watchdog organization Transparency International's "Bribe Payers Index 2006" showed that companies in Turkey have one of the world's worst reputations for paying bribes abroad, while firms in France and Italy are notorious for the practice in Africa.

In the 2006 index ranking, Transparency International (TI) placed Turkey as the fourth worst in the perceived tendency of companies in the world's 30 leading export nations to pay foreign bribes. Turkey came just ahead of Russia, China and India in the index.

"This is a crucial result as the country pursues its bid for European Union membership," TI said in a statement in Brussels.

"The poor score also raises troubling questions about the commitment to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development's (OECD) anti-bribery convention, which entered into force there in 2003," the statement said.

Turkey began membership talks with the EU a year ago but was told that the process would take at least a decade to complete, with no guarantees at the end that it would actually be allowed into the European club.

"Of Turkey's peers in Europe, France and Italy -- both large exporters -- scored poorly," TI said. "Isolating answers from African respondents places Italy and France in the bottom six countries overall."

Good marks

The Bribery Payers Index (BPI) was compiled based on the responses of some 11,000 business people in 125 countries to a World Economic Forum survey this year.

The country thought least likely to offer bribes abroad was Switzerland, followed by Sweden, Australia, Austria, Canada and Britain. The United States was not far behind in ninth place, tying with Belgium.

Germany fared relatively well in the survey, coming in seventh place -- despite the controversy surrounding German-American motor company DaimlerChrysler's recent admission to paying bribes in Africa, Asia and eastern Europe.

"We saw that Germany fared pretty well given the fact that it has three times as many opportunities to bribe," Hans-Jörg Elshorst, head of TI's German branch, told DW-RADIO. "It is the world champion of exports, but thankfully, is not a champion of corruption."

Rating is relative

However, no country was able to completely prevent its companies from making improper payments. Elshorst said that there was very little that actually separates the best performers from the worst on the index.

"There are different levels, but even the first and the last -- Switzerland and India -- are pretty close together," he said. "The difference is just three points of 10 possible points."

On a scale from 10, for no corruption, down to 1, for vast corruption, Switzerland scored 7.81 while India scored 4.62.

Profiteering from development money

To cut down on the bribery practice, TI recommended that wealthy OECD countries step up enforcement of the organization's anti-bribery convention. It urged development banks to debar companies found guilty of bribery abroad. The organization also encouraged China, India and Russia to sign on to the convention voluntarily.

"It is hypocritical that OECD-based companies continue to bribe across the globe, while their governments pay lip service to enforcing the law," said TI's chief executive, David Nussbaum.

Foreign companies that commit the crime of bribery were undercutting Africa's anti-poverty efforts, according to Casey Kelso, TI's regional director for Africa. He pointed to crooked companies that profiteered from development money and called on African governments to prosecute them vigorously.

"Progress made"

Despite these warnings, Elshorst was upbeat about progress that has been made in fighting corruption.

"When you look back 10 or 15 years ago, bribery was widely accepted, even in our country," he said. "You had the privilege of deducting your bribes from your taxes."

Elshorst said that people used to see that as an official endorsement of bribery by the state.

"That's now over," he said. "Companies try really hard to avoid it or at least to conceal it, and trying to conceal it is difficult."

DW staff (als)

Deutsche Welle 10/2006

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Hijacker Reportedly Faced Arrest in Turkey for Desertion

A Turkish hijacker seeking to communicate with Pope Benedict seized an airliner flying from Albania to Istanbul on Tuesday and diverted it to Italy before surrendering.

The drama ended swiftly after the unarmed Turkish hijacker gave himself up to Italian police and asked for asylum within hours of seizing the plane and forcing it to land in southern Italy on Tuesday.

The Boeing 737-400 had 107 passengers and six crew members on board.

All but the hijacker and a traveler who opted to stay in Italy were flown to Istanbul. The passangers, most of them Albanians, were greeted by senior THY managers at the Ataturk Airport in Istanbul.

The 28-year-old Turkish man identified as Hakan Ekinci, was originally facing arrest upon his arrival in Turkey. Ekinci was reportedly a Turkish convert to Christianity and a conscientious objector to military service.

Ekinci deserted in May while on a one-day furlough from his Istanbul garrison and fled to Albania, where he made an unsuccessful bid for political asylum, according to Istanbul Governor, Muammer Guler.

A letter to Pope Benedict

He had earlier written a letter to Pope Benedict XVI, hoping for his help to avoid military service in Turkey.

"Dear pope, I am a Christian and I do not want to serve in a Muslim army," Ekinci said in his letter to the pontiff, published on a Turkish Internet blog.

He said he converted to Christianity in 1999, adding: "I do not want to live in a Muslim country any longer.... Only your sublime leadership will save me." He also wrote that he was living in a UN-run refugee camp in Albania, "a country that has good relations with Turkey and is considering to sent me back there."

Package supposedly contained bomb

On Tuesday, he hijacked the plane about 20 minutes after take-off from Tirana, Albania en route to Istanbul. He entered the cockpit and threatened the pilots with a parcel which he said contained a bomb, according to Turkish officials. He forced the pilots to land in Italy.

The Turkish ambassador to Italy, Ugur Ziyal, was quoted by the state-owned Anatolia news agency as saying that the hijacking was a unique incident and that it was important not to link the event with the upcoming papal visit to Turkey. Ziyal pointed out that Ekinci was not a Muslim, but a Christian who had sought the pope's help.

Pope Benedict XVI had angered Muslims around the world with recent remarks he had made about Islam.

Italian newspapers reported Wednesday that Benedict's trip to Turkey would go ahead as planned. However, there was concern in the
Vatican about security threats in Turkey, the reports said.

No links to terrorist group

There had been speculation earlier that another man had helped Ekinci.

Istanbul Governor Muammer Guler, speaking after the standoff ended at Italy's Brindisi airport, said Hakan Ekinci seemed to have acted alone, apparently bluffing the pilot by saying he had other accomplices aboard.

Guler said there was no indication of Ekinci having links with any terrorist organisation.

A lawyer for Turkish conscientious objectors said she was not aware of any legal case against Ekinci in Turkey for objecting the to compulsory draft. He recently mailed a civic group of anti-war activists and conscientious objectors but they did not take interest in his case because he was "inconsistent," the lawyer, Hulya Ucpinar, told

The agency also reported that Ekinci had a criminal record for using a fake ID card on two occasions in 2003 and has spent time in
jail for bank fraud.

DW staff / AFP (als)

Deutsche Welle 10/2006