US Attorney General Eric Holder on Monday reaffirmed his country’s commitment to fight corruption, which he described as “one of the great struggles of our time.”
“Put simply, corruption undermines the promise of democracy. It imperils development, stability, and faith in our markets,” he said at the Paris headquarters of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development.
“The struggle against corruption, as President Obama has put it, ‘is one of the great struggles of our time’,” Holder said in a speech to delegates of the 35-nation OECD economic grouping in Paris.
The attorney general said that World Bank estimates showed that more than one trillion dollars in bribes are paid each year.
“That’s a staggering three percent of the world’s economy,” he noted. “In fact, the World Bank estimates that corruption serves, essentially, as a 20-percent tax.”
Holder paid tribute to the OECD as a leader in the global fight against graft.
“A little over a decade ago, foreign bribery was not only legal in many countries; it was tax deductible. That has changed,” thanks to advances such as the OECD’s Anti-Bribery Convention, he said.
The United States for its part has since 2004 prosecuted 37 different corporations for foreign bribery-related offences, levying criminal penalties in excess of 1.5 billion dollars, Holder said.
The US Justice Department has also focused on prosecuting individuals guilty of corruption to reinforce the message that “the risk of heading to prison for bribery is real, from the boardroom to the warehouse.”