$100 million . . . 200,000 lives

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Cholera has infected more than 7,000 people in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and has reached Kinshasa, the capital. / REUTERS

A New York “vulture fund” trying to collect $100 million from the Democratic Republic of Congo, whose case was thrown out of a Washington, D.C. court, has taken its fight to the Channel Islands–where it is pressing its claim thanks to a legal loophole.

So-called vulture funds buy up debts of poor nations struggling through civil war and natural disasters, and then claim multiples of the original debt when political conditions begin to improve. When countries can’t pay up, they go after national assets.

The fund, FG Hemisphere, bought a debt that Congo originally owed to the former Yugoslavia for the construction of power lines in the early 1990s. According to a joint report by the BBC and the Guardian newspaper in Britain, the debt was inherited by Bosnia, where a former prime minister, Nedzad Brankovic, sold it for just $3.3 million. Bosnian police contend the sale was illegal.

Now, FG Hemisphere is trying to collect $100 million, and is turning to the isle of Jersey, which is exempted from a British law that effectively stops such funds from pressing their claims in British courts. Earlier, the fund had tried, unsuccessfully, to seize the Congolese embassy in Washington.

The report quotes a Unicef sanitation specialist in Congo, where poor access to clean water is fueling a cholera outbreak. $100 million spent well, he says, could save 200,000 lives.

Sweep to UK urged to prevent vulture funds preying on world’s poorest countries

 

If you thought Washington was taking a hard line on corruption with the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, contemplate China.

There, corruption is a capital offense.

The Melbourne Herald Sun reports that the former chief of the state-owned Shanghai Pharmaceutical Company, Wu Jianwen, has been sentenced to death for taking 35 bribes over a decade ending in 2009. He was convicted of accepting the bribes in exchange for ordering raw materials from specific providers, and for extending sales rights to agents. The court gave him a two-year reprieve, and it is possible his sentence will be commuted to life in prison.

In 2007, China executed its former chief of the government Food and Drug Administration, for accepting bribes in exchange for approving drugs for public release, including some that proved fatal.

Oddly, China’s tough stance toward those who break the public trust does not extend beyond its borders. Chinese companies reportedly bribe foreign officials frequently to gain footholds in overseas markets–they are the second most likely to pay bribes, according to Transparency International’s Bribe Payers Index–so that American and European companies bound by anti-bribery laws like the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act claim they cannot compete.

Sweep to Chinese sentence pharmaceutical company chief to death for corruption

And in another corruption case, China executed a mid-level official in Fushun province, in the north, for illegally collecting some $23 million.

Fifty-year-old Luo Yaping, known as the “land granny” in China, worked for the government on land development projects. She had amassed millions through bogus compensation schemes and bribery, police reported.

Upon learning she was under investigation, Luo sent her daughter abroad, and applied to emigrate to Canada. The state executed her Wednesday.

Sweep to Chinese execute land granny

 

Diana Jean Schemo

Diana Jean Schemo

Diana Jean Schemo is co-founding executive editor of 100Reporters and an award-winning former foreign, national and cultural correspondent for The New York Times and the Baltimore Sun.
Diana Jean Schemo

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