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Anyone who has suffered from the effects of corruption can take action to fight it.
This includes anybody who suffered, or may suffer harm from corruption: an individual, a local community, a local government of a town, a regional government, a country, a business enterprise or any other affected organisation.
EXAMPLE: In 2011 more than a hundred Cambodian families were ordered by a local judge to give up their land in Sihanoukville to a government official, even though many of them had lived there for more than a decade. Despite fearing reprisals, the villagers decided to fight back. They brought legal proceedings to recover possession of their land and to prosecute the government official for forging public documents.
As the above example shows, people who seek to expose corruption (called “whistleblowers”) sometimes have understandable fears of reprisal from the wrongdoers. Some countries have specific legal procedures designed to protect whistleblowers from harm. We discuss this in the section headed “Right to protection as a whistleblower”.
There are various different ways to fight corruption:
There is a wide variety of remedies that you can seek in respect of the damage caused by corrupt conduct. Here are some examples:
Criminal sanctions: for example, the conviction of wrongdoers (individuals or corporations) for committing criminal offences.
EXAMPLE: In 2017, former Brazilian President President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva was convicted of corruption charges and sentenced to nine and a half years in prison. The prosecution claimed that Lula had been given an apartment as a bribe, in a scheme involving the state oil company. The conviction is under appeal.
Civil or private law remedies:
EXAMPLE: In 2016, the government of Panama announced that it would cancel a contract awarded to a Brazilian company named Odebrecht, after the company admitted in proceedings in the US that it had paid $59million in bribes to intermediaries in Panama between 2010 and 2014. Odebrecht was also banned from participating in future public bids in Panama.
Specific remedies for whistleblowers
In countries which have whistle-blower protection, these remedies generally aim to alleviate the consequences of any reprisals for seeking to tackle the corrupt conduct, with the aim of making the “whistleblower” whole. This includes:
“Asset recovery” refers to the process by which proceeds of corruption are returned to the country, county, community, person from which they were taken (i.e. the prior legitimate owner).
The “proceeds of corruption” can cover any property that was obtained through, or derived from, the commission of a corruption offence: including monies paid or taken, and any property that the corrupt person bought with that money.
Changing the culture!
Perhaps most importantly of all, by taking action against corrupt conduct you may be able to influence public opinion, mobilise people who are interested in the outcome of the case, create a safer environment for people who report corruption and make authorities more alert to the risk of corrupt conduct.