Canada is losing ground in its battle against international bribery even as it faces intense global pressure to combat financial crime.
A report by Transparency International, released on Wednesday, said Canada fell in its latest global rankings of enforcement against corruption, placing it near “the back of the pack” of OECD countries that are assessed on foreign bribery enforcement.
More than two decades after signing the OECD convention to stamp out the white-collar crime, Canada’s standing dropped from “moderate” to “limited enforcement,” the report said, pointing to this country’s insufficient enforcement record.
The report comes as Canada is under pressure to combat the bribery of foreign officials. Canada, which has acknowledged the need to improve detection of bribery abroad, is in the process of overhauling its anti-money laundering and terrorist financing legislation.
Montreal-based engineering giant SNC-Lavalin Group Inc. and two indirect subsidiaries face criminal charges over Libyan business activities. In 2015, the RCMP charged each of those entities with one count of fraud under the Criminal Code and one count of corruption under the Corruption of Foreign Public Officials Act.
None of the charges has been proved in court. A court hearing for the preliminary inquiry is set to start on Oct. 22.
In 2012, both the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development and Transparency International ranked Canada as the worst Group of Seven country at fighting bribery.
On the global stage, Canada is being urged to crack down on corruption when companies conduct business abroad. In early 2020, Austria and Britain will lead a review of Canada’s implementation of the OECD Convention on Combating Bribery of Foreign Public Officials in International Business Transactions.
Transparency International, a Berlin-based non-profit that aims to fight corruption, said in its 2018 report that Canada fell to the “limited” category for enforcement. The rankings have four categories: “active,” “moderate,” “limited” and “little or no enforcement.”
“Canada dropped from moderate to limited enforcement namely due to the minuscule number of cases commenced between 2014-2017. In that time, Canada only commenced four foreign bribery cases and concluded one,” according to a release accompanying the 160-page report, titled Exporting Corruption.
Transparency International, which rated 44 leading exporters, said it found that “only 11 major exporting countries − accounting for about a third of world exports − have active or moderate law enforcement against companies bribing abroad in order to gain mining rights, contracts for major construction projects, purchases of planes and other deals.”
Canada is at the “back of the pack” of OECD countries when it comes to clamping down on the bribing of officials abroad, Transparency International said, adding that the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention requires parties to criminalize bribery of foreign public officials.
“Disappointingly, there has been little change in the overall enforcement level since the last report in 2015,” Transparency International said in its 2018 report. “This apparent standstill means the convention’s fundamental goal of creating a corruption-free level playing field for global trade is still far from being achieved, due to insufficient enforcement.”
Alesia Nahirny, Transparency International Canada’s executive director, said inadequate enforcement cannot be tolerated. “We’ve fallen behind and need to play catch up on a number of anti-corruption fronts,” Ms. Nahirny said in a statement. “Canadians want us to be leaders with respect to the fight against corruption at home and abroad and we can no longer rest only on our good reputation. The inadequacies in our enforcement system can no longer be ignored.”
Wednesday’s report said 33 exporters, comprising 52 per cent of global exports, still have limited or little to no corruption enforcement. “That includes all four of the exporters not party to the [OECD] convention − China, Hong Kong, India and Singapore − all of which get the lowest rating of little or no enforcement,” Transparency International said.
In a 2016 review, the Financial Action Task Force, a global intergovernmental body, found that crossborder movements of money internationally are rarely analyzed by law enforcement.
With a report from Rita Trichur