Thursday, 24 February 2011

OECD expert criticizes Austria for being "oasis of corruption"

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Vienna - A corruption expert with the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) on Friday criticizedAustria for not being forceful enough in its fight against bribery and breach of trust.

When it comes to fighting corruption, Austria ranks among the worst third of the world's countries, Mark Pieth said in an interview with the broadcaster O1.

Over the last few days, media reports that secret funds of the late Austrian populist politician Joerg Haider may have been found in Liechtenstein have caused a stir in his homeland.

There is speculation that Libyan President Moamer Gaddafi and former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein were among the funders.

No concrete evidence has been brought forward, but the claims have already led to criticism of Austria's justice system and lax political-party laws.

Pieth said the country's prosecutors and courts have not been very convincing in their fight against transnational corruption.

'For me, there seems to be a lack of determination in the prosecution of foreign graft.' he said.

Pieth cited the United Nations' Oil for Food programme in Iraq as one example. The 43-billion-euro (56 million dollars) project, which ran from 1996-2003, came under fire for massive kickbacks. Austrian firms were also involved, but the country never launched an inquiry, Pieth noted.

Pieth, a law professor in Switzerland, also questioned whether a new corruption statute introduced in Austria in late 2009 meets OECD standards.

He said loopholes in regulations for state and semi-state companies meant they are governed by the far less stricter rules that apply to the private sector.

That has turned the country into a sort of 'oasis of corruption,' especially given its important role in Eastern Europe, Pieth said.

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