August 10, 2006

Bush unveils plan to tackle global corruption

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President George W. Bush launched a
new global campaign on Thursday to combat kleptocracy, or
rampant government corruption, which he said undermines
democracy and development in poor countries.

"Kleptocracy is an obstacle to democratic progress,
undermines faith in government institutions, and steals
prosperity from the people," Bush said in a statement.

Bush's National Strategy To Internationalize Efforts
Against Kleptocracy follows the agreement by the Group of Eight
powers at their summit in St. Petersburg, Russia to coordinate
legal and financial policies to fight corruption.

"Our objective is to defeat high-level public corruption in
all its forms and to deny corrupt officials access to the
international financial system as a means of defrauding their
people and hiding their ill-gotten gains," Bush said.

State Department official Josette Shiner told reporters
U.S. government agencies would work with foreign counterparts
to detect kleptocrats, deny them access to financial systems,
recover and return stolen funds and prosecute officials.

The goal of the policy is to "block, at every level
possible, their ability to take those monies and to store them
for their own personal use or expend them for their own
personal use," said Shiner, undersecretary of state for
economic, business and agricultural affairs.

She declined to name officials who were being targeted
under the strategy, but in response to a reporter's question
about North Korean state counterfeiting and smuggling, said:
"North Korea is a particular issue of concern on many fronts."

A State Department document issued on Thursday identified
former presidents Saddam Hussein of Iraq, Arnaldo Aleman of
Nicaragua, Sani Abacha of Nigeria and Alberto Fujimori of Peru
as examples of kleptocrats who stole massive state funds.

Deputy Assistant Attorney General Matthew Friedrich, cited
recent U.S. efforts against corruption, including an order by
Bush in June freezing assets of officials in Belarus and the
conviction of former Ukraine Prime Minister Pavel Lazarenko in
a San Francisco for money laundering and wire fraud.

In 2004, the United States returned more than $20 million
connected to illicit activities by Fujimori and his associates,
Friedrich said.