The causes and effects of corruption, and how to combat it, are of increasing concern to the United States and others in the international community. The abuse of power by public officials for private gain diverts scarce resources from those most in need, erodes public trust, stifles investment and breeds contempt for the rule of law.
The news has been filled in recent weeks with stories of foreign leaders and officials removed from office who later were found to have stashed millions of dollars in public funds in banks overseas. When this happens, the countries face considerable difficulty in trying to reclaim the money. The Attorney General of the United States, our nation's top law enforcement officer, is cheering such efforts and has offered U.S. aid to help retrieve such funds.
In a speech last month in Europe, Attorney General Eric Holder noted that every nation, including ours, struggles against public corruption. To combat it requires a shift in the way business leaders and public officials conduct themselves. Government attitudes must change as well, since some nations have policies that protect corrupt officials from prosecution. Granting immunity from prosecution to officials is legitimate in some cases, but blanket immunity for past crimes becomes impunity.
International cooperation also is important in fighting corruption, Mr. Holder said. Toward that end, the United States has organized a new team of investigators and prosecutors to focus exclusively on locating and seizing assets sent aboard by corrupt officials and returning them to their countries. We will also provide experts and resources to train legal and law enforcement officials in other countries to locate and retrieve looted funds for their proper use.