Legal Remedies for Grand Corruption

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Civil society groups that seek to combat transnational grand corruption have what might be called a love-hate relationship with the law. Sometimes magistrates and prosecutors can be pushed to hold perpetrators to account. All too often, existing law and law enforcement mechanisms protect those responsible for high-level corruption:  bribing business actors, self-dealing kleptocrats, and the financial, legal and business intermediaries who often profit from and facilitate the crime.

Legal Remedies for Grand Corruption is an effort to explore the state of this struggle, through a series of papers by global activists, legal experts and practitioners on civil society and anticorruption litigation. It seeks to present a survey of current thinking on legal strategies that worked, and those that did not.

Many of these papers were initially written for a day of discussions on the worldwide legal fight against high-level corruption organized by the Justice Initiative and Oxford University’s Institute for Ethics, Law and Armed Conflict, held in Oxford in June 2014. 

  • Standing Doctrine and Anticorruption Litigation: A Survey Matthew C. Stephenson of Harvard University Law School looks at the application of the doctrine of legal standing in a number of jurisdictions, and its implications for private anticorruption litigation.
  • Anticorruption Litigation in the High Court of India Arghya Sengupta of the Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy examines the role of India's Supreme Court in NGO efforts to expose and punish corruption involving high-ranking government officials.
  • Lessons from Qui Tam Litigation in the United States David Kwok of the University of Houston Law School surveys a form of litigation which allows private individuals to take action on behalf of the governement.
  • Private Prosecutions: a Potential Anticorruption Tool in English Law Tamlyn Edmonds and David Jugnarain of law firm Edmonds Marshall McMahon set out the history of private prosecutions in England and Wales, and explain the relationship between private and public prosecutions.
  • Legal Remedies for Victims of Bribery under United States Law Richard E. Messick, a legal consultant specializing in anticorruption law, considers how such cases are faring as of early 2016, and how remedies for bribery victims are likely to evolve in the future.
  • South Africa: Public Trust Theory as the Basis for Resource Corruption Litigation Elmarie van der Schyff, a professor of law at South Africa’s North-West University, argues that the statutory creation of doctrines of public trust has strengthened and supported existing legal remedies against corruption, in appropriate circumstances.
  • Empowering the Victims of Corruption: The Potential of the Third Party Beneficiary Clauses
    Abiola Makinwa, a lecturer in commercial law at the Hague University of Applied Sciences, proposes a novel approach to giving the right of legal address to those who suffer the social and economic damage caused by corrupt dealings.
  • Litigating Corruption in International Human Rights Tribunals: SERAP before the ECOWAS Court
    In 2010 the ECOWAS regional court ordered the Nigerian government to make good damages to schooling arising from the corrupt diversion of government funds, seeing a breach of the right to education enshrined in Nigeria's constitution. Adetokunbo Mumuni, executive director of the Social and Economic Rights Accessibility Project (SERAP), reflects on the lessons of the case.
  • Litigation Lessons from Contesting a Corrupt Cambodian Land Grab
    Bunthea Keo, a Cambodian public interest lawyer, gives a first hand account of the challenges of using litigation to protect villagers living outside Sihanoukville from the loss of their land, when the local courts side with a manifestly unlawful claim.
  • Challenging the Pillage Process: Argor-Heraeus and Gold from Ituri
    Bénédict de Moerloose, head of investigative and criminal legal work at the Swiss NGO TRIAL International, outlines the history of an innovative criminal complaint that sought to hold a Swiss metal refiner to account for knowingly processing pillaged gold from Eastern Congo.  
  • France’s Biens Mal Acquis Affair: Lessons from a Decade of Legal Struggle Maud Perdriel-Vaissière, a former executive director of Association Sherpa, reviews the long campaign by civil society groups in France that led eventually to the public trial on money-laundering charges of Teodorin Obiang, son and heir-apparent of the president of Equatorial Guinea.