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UN to Launch First Global Anti-Corruption Convention - 2003-10-01

The U.N. anti-crime office will soon put into effect the first global convention to fight corruption.

The United Nations says the international convention, which will be officially signed in December, is designed to help tackle money laundering, fraud, official corruption, and embezzlement of public funds. The convention brands corruption as a criminal act and requires signatory countries to help each other in tracking offenders.

The definition of corruption would include anything from petty bribes to bureaucrats for awarding licenses and permits to kickbacks in awarding multi-million-dollar public contracts.

The United Nations says dishonesty and fraud hits poor countries most, enriching corrupt officials, discouraging foreign investment, and draining resources from the economy.

It says the new convention will help African governments, for example, recover funds stashed away by dishonest officials in Swiss banks.

Eduardo Vetere, legal expert in the U.N. office, says asset recovery will be possible for the first time.

"And this is also the other novelty of this new instrument because its not only limited to criminalization but it also covers several other aspects from broad preventative measures to asset recovery, to technical assistance and technical co-operation," he explained.

Mr. Vetere says annual reviews will check up on how the convention is working in practice.

The U.N. anti-crime office says the fight against corruption is difficult, especially in countries where the judiciary is also corrupt. It says low pay for civil servants and the police can open the door to corruption.