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What about the victims of large-scale corruption?

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Guro Slettemark
Head of Transparency Norway.
REPLACEMENT / A principle of return of funds to victims of corruption should be included in the agreement concluded between the authorities and companies that are convicted.


Recently, British, US and French authorities have concluded in a giant corruption case and imposed a company the greatest penalty of all time.

The aircraft manufacturer Airbus has passed a fine of as much as NOK 36 billion, and thus tops a little glorious list where we find the Brazilian oil company Petrobras number two and the Swedish telecom company Ericsson as number three. Huge sums accrue to the Treasury in countries that consider themselves justified in prosecuting corruption cases.

Return of funds. In some cases, the return of funds to the corruption victims has been included as part of the agreement with the company being fined. This does not appear to be the case in the Airbus case, which involves the payment of bribes in around 20 countries in the world. It is also uncertain what will happen to the people who have received the bribes, and whether legal action will be taken against the company's employees.

The waterworks case

When three journalists at Aftenposten in 2005 uncovered perhaps the greatest corruption case in Norwegian history, waterworks case in Romerike, the victims were easier to identify: they had been paying more than necessary for the municipal services for a number of years and thus had financed a luxurious life for the waterworks manager and his immediate family – including his acquisition of nine farms in South Africa , which was built into a private hunting paradise.

As the proceeds of the criminal acts were seized and the funds realized, Økokrim stated: "The most important thing has been to return funds to those who are entitled to the assets." Hundreds of millions were returned to the municipalities, which resulted in a reduction of the water and sanitation fees for the inhabitants. Investments were also made in a run-down water and sewage network.

Statutory law in France

In the major international corruption cases, the victims of the criminal acts may be more difficult to identify. At the same time, there is little doubt that in large public procurements where corruption is part of the picture, the costs increase, which in turn can go beyond other services to the population, such as education and health. This is particularly evident in poor countries. The principle of the return of funds to victims of corruption should therefore always be included in the agreements concluded between authorities and companies in international corruption cases.

In France, this principle is legislated, although in a slightly different version, namely that victims of corruption, including states, can ask to become (civil) party to a criminal case. Thus, the chances are that the victims are taken into account in the process.

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