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Riyadh Initiative: Fighting cross-border corruption

Fadel bin Saad al-Buainain

Published: Updated:

Safe havens are considered one of the major challenges hindering anti-corruption efforts, and although they are provided under the pretext of the absence of legal information, they are not devoid of political, intelligence, and financial interests. The West uses corrupt individuals to harm their countries, recruit them for intelligence purposes, or drain their countries financially. Indeed, some of the corrupt who have been sentenced by law are merely intelligence pawns recruited by Western agencies in order to harm their homelands.

Exposing and proving financial corruption internationally is easy, and the legal outcomes cannot be questioned, especially when linked to international financial transfers, interconnected banking restrictions, accounts in foreign banks filled with hundreds of millions of dollars, and real estate and financial assets that no government or private sector employee could possibly purchase!

Saudi Arabia is at the forefront of countries actively combating corruption, and it strives to promote the value of integrity and transform it into a general culture that is assimilated by young people and common practice among the public.

However, international support is needed to complement its internal efforts, especially since Saudi Arabia is one of the countries affected by the existence of safe havens that harbor the corrupt. Fighting cross-border corruption requires international cooperation to clamp down on corrupt individuals and prevent them from winning their dirty spoils.

Providing safe havens for the perpetrators of corruption crimes certain Western countries weakens the ability of the supervisory authorities to complete efforts to control and bring these individuals to trial. The exploitation of corruption cases initiated by the Control and Anti-Corruption Authority, or those under consideration by Sharia courts, for political, intelligence, and media purposes, harms anti-corruption efforts and gives the corrupt an international umbrella that protects them from facing the consequences of the financial and administrative crimes in which they are involved.
During its presidency of the G20 in 2020, Saudi Arabia presented the Riyadh Initiative aimed at creating a global platform linking anti-corruption agencies around the world, and contributed $10 million to the establishment of the network, which confirms its keenness and determination to address challenges that negatively affect anti-corruption efforts, including safe havens, and prosecute cross-border corruption cases. Just as the initiative was endorsed by the leaders of the G20, the UN General Assembly adopted the Riyadh International Anti-Corruption Initiative (GlobE) at its special session of the General Assembly devoted to combating corruption. The UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, valued the Kingdom's role in establishing a global anti-corruption network during the G20 summit, stressing its importance, and that "corruption is an immoral act and a serious cross-border crime."

His Excellency the Chairman of the Control and Anti-Corruption Authority, Mr. Mazen Al-Kahmous, indicated that “the Kingdom is aware that overcoming the challenges of cross-border corruption crimes requires close cooperation between the relevant law enforcement authorities,” and stressed the importance of providing the necessary support for the success of this initiative and monitoring its development to serve the common interests of all countries. I think that achieving this goal can only be achieved through tightening the noose on the corrupt and prevent them from exploiting international safe havens and profiting from stolen money.

I stress the importance of achieving optimal cooperation between international law enforcement authorities in a way that achieves integration conducive to law enforcement, the arrest of the corrupt, and the return of the looted funds. Any success achieved in combating terrorism and its financing, as well as drug trafficking is attributed to international cooperation and commitment to working together. Failure to achieve positive results is due to the failure of certain international bodies to implement strict control measures, whether intentionally and for intelligence purposes, or out of ignorance of the importance of the information and actions to be taken.

Today, the Kingdom has placed the cornerstone of international cooperation to combat corruption, through a global platform that links anti-corruption agencies around the world, and provides a reliable database that provides accurate information, exposes the corrupt and documents their crimes. Success of this endeavor now depends on international commitment to support the platform, achieve optimal cooperation in combating corruption, and controlling looted funds and returning them to the treasury of the affected countries. This will contribute to promoting sustainable development and creating environments of integrity, transparency and commitment to regulations and laws.

This article was originally published in, and translated from, Saudi daily al-Jazirah.

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