Pirate Bankers, Shadow Economies

April 14th, 2009

By Khadija Sharife
Foreign Policy in Focus

Corruption isn’t an issue that Jacob Zuma, the current president of the African National Congress — South Africa’s liberation party — is particularly enthusiastic about. Until prosecutors dropped charges in early April, Zuma stood accused of 18 counts of corruption, graft, fraud, and racketeering related to a rigged multibillion-dollar arms deal. He was alleged to have accepted 783 payments from French arms multinational Thint via his financial advisor Shabir Sheik, who was later convicted for graft, fraud, and corruption. Sheik has since emerged from prison, serving just 28 months of his 15-year term.

In Africa, political power is often used as a “get out of jail free” card, immunizing the venal political elite through various mechanisms. Transparency International, the global corruption watchdog renowned for its annual Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI), argues that corruption is especially rampant in Africa. TI defines corruption as the “abuse of entrusted power for private gain,” a notion limited to the governing bodies in developing countries.

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