Australia, Singapore and New Zealand have fallen respectively from 9th, 5th and equal 1st, to 11th, 7th and 2nd in the Transparency International’s annual Corruption Perceptions Index.
Transparency International, a global anti-corruption organisation, started out in 1993 and currently has a presence in over 100 countries. The organisation has contributed to the development of international anti-corruption conventions and the prosecution of shady leaders and the seizure of their corruptly-obtained property.
In 2014, Australia scored 80, down from 81 in 2013 and 94 in 2012. Singapore fell to 84, from 86 in 2013 and 87 in 2014. New Zealand remained steady on 91, but was overtaken by Denmark, which scored 92 this year.
“A poor score is likely a sign of widespread bribery, lack of punishment for corruption and public institutions that don’t respond to citizens’ needs,” the organisation says.
Perceptions of corruption can also harm countries’ economic growth and standing in the global community.
Several governments have adopted powerful legislation to combat bribery and corruption, equipping regulators and courts to hand out severe penalties for business misconduct.
Regulators in a variety of jurisdictions have regularly demonstrated that even small bribes can have serious consequences.
In the US, under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, arms manufacturer Smith & Wesson Holding Corp was hit by a $2 million fine by the Securities and Exchange Commission over a bribe of $11,000 for a contract valued at $107,852.
In the UK, a Magistrates’ Court clerk was sentenced to six years imprisonment for accepting a £500 bribe to conceal a traffic summons – but has since had his sentence reduced to four years.
The reach of anti-corruption legislation often extends across state jurisdictions.
In 2013, Chinese official Li Huabo was found guilty of receiving stolen Chinese government money in his Singaporean bank account.
Under Singaporean anti-money laundering laws, Li was sentenced to 15 months imprisonment following an investigation by the Suspicious Transaction Reporting Office. The Chinese official had received less than 10 per cent of his ill-gotten funds in his Singaporean bank account.
Though difficult to quantify, the World Bank estimates that at least $1 trillion is paid in bribes each year.
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