Holder announces initiative to battle corruption in foreign states

The U.S. launched a new initiative on Sunday aimed at battling large-scale public corruption in foreign states. 

Attorney General Eric Holder announced the Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiative at the African Union Summit in Uganda. In addition to tackling the lucrative field of public bribes, the new initiative is also aimed at recovering public money and redirecting it to its intended use.

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As head of the Department of Justice, Holder said the U.S. has been assembling a team of prosecutors who will be devoted exclusively to the initiative. He emphasized that African countries must strengthen their judicial systems in tandem with the efforts to prosecute corrupt public officials.

“[I] know that prosecution is not the only effective way to curb global corruption,” Holder said in prepared remarks at the African Union summit. “We will continue to work with your governments to strengthen the entire judicial sector, a powerful institution in our democracy which depends on the integrity of our laws, our courts, and our judges.

“We must also work with business leaders to encourage, ensure and enforce sound corporate governance. We should not, and must not settle for anything less.”

More than $1 trillion in bribes are paid each year throughout the world, according to the World Bank.

“As many here have learned — often in painful and devastating ways — corruption imperils development, stability, competition and economic investment,” said Holder. “It also undermines the promise of democracy." 

Holder told the 35-nation Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development in Paris at the end of May that he and President Obama are committed to battling corruption as "one of the great struggles of our time."

The new initiative was announced along with a renewed promise to the 53 member countries of the African Union (AU) to continue to support local and global efforts combating terrorist groups like Al-Shabaab in Somalia.

Al-Shabaab, which has ties to al-Qaeda, recently took responsibility for several bombings in Uganda that left 74 people dead and 85 wounded as scores of people watched the World Cup in a rugby club and a restaurant.

The FBI has provided Uganda with forensic experts to assist in its investigation and has also offered both technical assistance and intelligence resources to Ugandan officials.

“Like President Obama, I believe that the 21st century will be shaped by what happens here in Africa,” said Holder. “Your security and prosperity, the health of your people and the strength of your civil society, will have a direct and profound impact on the world’s communities and on the advancement of human rights and human progress everywhere.”

Holder also pledged U.S. support in spurring economic development in African countries by expanding current "green" development efforts.

“This goal [of ultimate African self sufficiency] is driving our work to help Africa develop new sources of energy, to create green jobs, to grow new crops and to develop new education and training programs,” he said.

Finally, the U.S. reiterated its support of African women through the Women’s Justice Empowerment Initiative — a three-year, $55-million-dollar program developed by the Department of Justice, the State department and the U.S. Agency for International Development.

“In Kenya, South Africa, Zambia and Benin, this initiative has helped to train attorneys, investigators, law enforcements officials and medical professionals in an effort to improve prosecutions and to raise awareness about the special needs of victims,” said Holder.

“I do not pretend that the progress we all seek — and the conditions and opportunities that all African citizens deserve — will come easily or quickly.”

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