Portugal “must step up fight against corruption of foreign public officials” – OECD

In 20 years, anti-corruption convention has failed to secure even one conviction

Portugal “urgently” needs to step up implementation of the convention on combating the corruption of foreign public officials.

This is the bottom line of the OECD (Organisation for economic cooperation and development)’s latest Working Group report, published yesterday.

In language clearly tiptoeing through the mire, the report points out that detection of corruption “remains low and Portuguese authorities have prematurely closed” cases of corruption by foreign public officials “without thoroughly and proactively investigating the relevant allegations”.

According to the findings of phase 4 of this assessment “the number of closed cases increased significantly compared to the previous phase”, says Lusa.

Since the OECD Anti-Corruption Convention came into force more than 20 years ago, Portugal has not recorded a single conviction for corruption by foreign public officials”.

In the words of the report: “Despite recent reforms, Portugal has not addressed the Working Group’s long-standing concerns regarding its legal framework and sanctions for foreign corruption against natural and legal persons do not appear to be effective, proportionate or dissuasive.” 

Although it ‘welcomes the efforts and measures taken by Portugal to implement the Convention’, the OECD Working Group has made a series of recommendations to improve Portugal’s ‘capacity’ to prevent and combat corruption by foreign agents, namely to continue “its awareness-raising and training efforts” on corruption by foreign agents among “all relevant actors in the public and private sectors”.

Another of the recommendations is for Portugal to address key elements of its legal framework and its implementation in practice, particularly in relation to the liability of legal persons and sanctions for natural and legal persons in the area of the crime under analysis.

“Improve the detection of corruption by foreign agents, including through the financial and tax authority and corporate complaints” and “adopt urgent measures to ensure that the authorities thoroughly and proactively investigate allegations of corruption” are other recommendations made to Portugal.

A further recommendation suggests that Portugal proactively seek the cooperation of foreign countries “whenever necessary and appropriate to investigate such cases, especially before deciding to terminate or close the case”.

Whether any of this ‘filters through’, or is even taken onboard, is the big question. Bearing in mind 20 years have passed in which Portugal appears to have dropped the ball on multiple occasions, the likelihood of a sudden spurt of proactivity seems slim.

The OECD report does its best to acknowledge some “good practices and positive developments” however – “such as the adoption of the national anti-corruption strategy, the general regime for the prevention of corruption, the establishment of the national anti-corruption mechanism, and legislation on the protection of whistleblowers”.

The report also commends Portugal for its awareness-raising and training efforts in the public and private sectors and the recent programme to recruit staff for careers in criminal investigation and forensic analysis in the Judicial Police.

This report is part of the fourth follow-up phase of the OECD Working Group, launched in 2016 and currently covering 44 countries.

The OECD is a global policy forum that promotes policies to preserve individual freedom and improve the economic and social well-being of people around the world.

Source: LUSA