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Lissack and Horlick on Bribery and Corruption: Latin America and the Caribbean

John McKendrick QC authored chapter 24 of Lissack & Horlick on Bribery and Corruption. John’s new chapter focuses on the scale of corruption in Latin America and the Caribbean and the major challenges it presents. As part of a serialisation of chapters that members of Outer Temple contributed to in this latest edition, the authors have been summarising their chapters every week.

The scale of corruption, and the major challenge it presents to all aspects of Latin American and Caribbean society, have increasingly moved to a dominant, indeed, overwhelming centre stage in public discourse in recent years.

Latin America

An incessant number of scandals have emerged. The largest has been the “Car Wash” scandal (“Lava Jato”) which began in Brazil but quickly traversed to involve activities in many other countries, including allegations of corruption by the Presidents of Brazil, Venezuela, Peru and a former President of Colombia. Over 200 people have been convicted of crimes related to Operation Car Wash and 346 have been accused of crimes by the Brazilian law enforcement officials.

Elsewhere, the “Notebook” scandal has rocked Argentina; President Morales’ attack on the UN-backed Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala has shocked the world and the arrest and detention of the former President of Panama on corruption charges underlines the ability of even the smallest countries to make progress.

Alarmingly, in a sign of how grave the threat of corruption is to Latin America, Honduras was required to accept the corruption crises it faced could not be dealt with by national institutions and the grave problem was internationalised. The Organisation of American States (“OAS”) backed the ‘Support Mission Against Corruption and Impunity in Honduras’ (Misión de Apoyo contra la Corrupción y la Impunidad en Honduras – MACCIH), suggesting a growing need for corruption investigations to be supported by non-state institutions in circumstances where nation states had to admit failure.

Efforts to reduce levels of corruption in the region have focused on several key themes: promoting judicial independence; improving transparency in public procurement; international multilateral cooperation and the involvement of international organisations; reducing immunities and campaign finance reform. Moreover, there is also a dire need to implement and strengthen existing governance mechanisms, procedures and protocols of public bodies and statutory entities.  Many are also considering the role of artificial intelligence and new technologies to drive transparency and remove discretion.

The Caribbean

The Caribbean is not immune to corruption scandals. In recent years, corruption allegations have been levelled against the governments of Guyana, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago and Suriname. Over 30 senior members of the Caribbean Football Union resigned over corruption allegations and the Antiguan Minister for Investment and Trade was forced to resign following allegations of bribery.

International Standards

In the Americas, the major international treaties which guide nation states’ responses against corruption mostly comprise the following internationally recognised standards:

  • United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC)
  • OECD Convention on Combating Bribery of Foreign Public Officials
  • United Nations Convention against Transnational Organised Crime
  • Inter-American Convention against Corruption (IACAC)

Implementation of these international standards in national legislatures has not led to any real reduction in corruption. National anti-bribery laws are honoured more in the breach than the observance. Passing laws in Latin America and the Caribbean has not developed anti-bribery effectiveness and impunity runs amok in the region. One institution which has had an impact in the region is the Financial Action Task Force. The fourth round mutual evaluation process of its 40 Recommendations to prevent and reduce money laundering and terrorist financing and, most importantly, its relentless focus on the effectiveness of the measures has gained traction.

Read the Chapter

John’s chapter looks at the law in select Latin American and Caribbean countries in more detail.

The full chapter is available for Lexis Nexis subscribers here.

About the Author

John McKendrick QC practices in two Caribbean jurisdictions and has litigated extensively before the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court in a range of commercial, contractual and public law disputes. He has carried out significant advisory work in the region and has worked and advised a number of Governments, the Inter-American Development Bank and major commercial organisations. He carries out a significant amount of transparency, integrity, anti-bribery, anti-AML and compliance work in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Find Out More

If you would like to discuss any of the issues covered in this article please contact John directly or via his Practice Management Team; David Smith on +44 (0)20 7427 4905 or Colin Bunyan on +44 (0)20 7427 4886.

Business Crime, Legal Blog & Publications, News 2 Dec, 2020


John McKendrick KC

Call: 1999 Silk: 2016

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