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Canadian Supreme Court

A Call for Global Action against Corruption

Stephen S. Zimmermann's picture

Supreme Court of Canada“Corruption is a significant obstacle to international development. It undermines confidence in public institutions, diverts funds from those who are in great need of financial support, and violates business integrity. Corruption often transcends borders. In order to tackle this global problem, worldwide cooperation is needed. When international financial organizations, such as the World Bank Group, share information gathered from informants across the world with the law enforcement agencies of member states, they help achieve what neither could do on their own.”
 
This statement was made not by someone from within the World Bank Group, underscoring the value of the Bank’s work in the fight against corruption. It is the opening passage of a decision by the Supreme Court of Canada issued on April 29, 2016 in the World Bank v. Wallace.  By endorsing the integrity efforts of international organizations while upholding the privileges and immunities of the World Bank, the Court’s decision serves as a reminder that better results in the fight against corruption can be achieved when all the actors in the global fight come together in their respective roles.  The investigation and prosecution that led to this decision stand as a clear example of the power we can harness when we work together. They also illustrate the challenges of aggressively fighting corruption while simultaneously pursuing a development agenda focused on ending poverty.

In 2011, the World Bank’s Integrity Vice-Presidency learned that representatives of SNC-Lavalin were planning to bribe officials of the Government of Bangladesh to obtain a contract related to the construction of a bridge over the Padma River.  The World Bank had already agreed to provide more than one billion dollars in financing for this project that was projected to be among the most significant and impactful development projects in the region.  As INT’s investigation unfolded, it voluntarily shared information of its findings initially with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) and subsequently with the Bangladeshi Anti-Corruption Commission.