Chief Justice in the Dock

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Senate security personnel call for silence as Philippine Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona testifies during his impeachment trial at the Senate in Manila. / REUTERS / Erik De Castro
There was plenty of drama, tears and defiance as the chief justice of the Philippines, Renato C. Corona, took on his accusers in his first appearance at his impeachment trial before the Philippine Senate.

“I am certain that I am not at fault, that I have done no wrong,” Chief Justice Corona said, according to The New York Times.  “I did not steal from government. I have a clear conscience.”

In a three-hour opening statement, complete with a Power Point presentation, Corona said that his wealth had been exaggerated and that he was being unfairly targeted by the government of  President Benigno S. Aquino, who has criticized the integrity of the Supreme Court under Corona’s leadership.

There were several moments of high theater.  At one point, Corona tried walk out of the proceedings, and was prevented from doing so by the Senate president, who ordered the Senate doors closed and gave him a tongue-lashing.  He rolled back in a wheelchair, with an attendant at his side. One of his lawyers said he was suffering from dizziness and could not continue.  The judge adjourned the proceedings, ordering Corona to return to court next Wednesday.

At one point, Corona wept on the stand.  He also waved a document that he said would grant the government access to all of his bank accounts, including foreign currency deposits. But he then said he would not hand over the document until his accusers did the same.

He is accused of hiding assets and issuing biased rulings in favor of Mr. Aquino’s predecessor, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, who appointed the chief justice. If convicted, he faces removal from office. Prosecutors say that he had deposited $12 million into scores of bank accounts while serving on the Supreme Court.

Corona claims he does not have that amount of money, nor the number of bank accounts claimed by the prosecution.

Sweep to Philippines Chief Justice denies corruption charges

In spite of all the attention to foreign business corruption, more executives are increasingly willing to pay bribes to win overseas business, according to the 12th annual fraud survey from Ernst & Young.

The survey polled more than 1700 business leaders in 43 countries and found that 15 percent said they would pay bribes to land business. This compares to 9 percent in the previous survey.

In a statement, the accounting firm says that a declining economy is contributing to the problem as businesses that have already cut costs to the bone seek to expand in rapidly-growing developing economies. The firm termed this “a further cause for concern” and added that the findings “suggest that bribery, corruption and fraud remain widespread.”

This comes even though the United States has increased its enforcement of foreign bribery cases and other countries, like the United Kingdom, have strengthened their anti-bribery laws.

“Executives, especially those in many mature markets, must overcome a certain degree of institutional fatigue about anti-corruption compliance initiatives,” David Stulb, global leader of Ernst & Young’s fraud investigation & disputes services practice, wrote in the survey, which was reported in The Wall Street Journal.

Corruption is still a common business practice in the developing world.  According to the survey, it was considered a widespread practice by 84 percent of the respondents in Brazil, 72 percent in Indonesia, 60 percent in Mexico and 70 percent in India. Overall, nearly 40 percent of the respondents said bribery occurred frequently in their country.

Sweep to Survey finds unethical business practices on the rise

The British police, already rocked by a corruption scandal, have found yet more dirty laundry to air.  A Scotland Yard anti-corruption detective and three former Metropolitan Police officers were arrested, amid claims that they were pocketing bribes in return for providing information into an inquiry into a corrupt Nigerian official.

The Daily Mail reports that the three are accused of providing information about Nigerian fraudster James Ibori in return for cash.  Ibori, former governor of Nigeria’s Delta State, was ordered jailed for 13 years last month after he admitted to embezzling money to fund a lavish lifestyle for himself and his family.  The article said that the arrests “raise serious questions about links between police and private investigators who want to obtain information to undermine the criminal justice system.”

The alleged payments were made for information given to a London law firm and a private investigation company headed by a former Scotland Yard detective.  They total nearly $30,000.  Both the law firm and the private investigation company were hired to work for Ibori in 2007, after he was charged with fraud.

Sweep to Anti-corruption detective and 3 ex-officers arrested

Leslie Wayne

Leslie Wayne

Leslie Wayne, former senior editor at 100Reporters, is an award-winning business reporter, formerly at The New York Times. Ms. Wayne joined The Times in 1981 and has covered Wall Street, banking industry regulatory reform, municipal finance scandals and, most recently, the aerospace and military industries. Ms. Wayne has an M.B.A. in finance from Columbia Business School and was also a Knight-Bagehot Fellow in Business and Economic Journalism.

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