Troubles in Denmark

Steve Snively Newsletter Editor and Webmaster

We are not the only least corrupt country with corruption

Transparency International New Zealand is regularly criticised for promoting New Zealand’s status as one of the least corrupt countries in the World.

Critics will point to a number of events sullying New Zealand’s reputation such as political party corruption, providing sanctuary to money laundering as exposed by the Panama Papers and Paradise Papers, the  Auckland Transport corruption case and questionable behaviors during the Christchurch earthquake recovery. They insist that there is no reason for New Zealand to be considered among the least corrupt countries in the world.

Corruption in Denmark

All is not perfect in newly-minted, least corrupt country in the world, Denmark.

Denmark and other top CPI performers, like the United Kingdom, Luxembourg and Netherlands, have all been implicated in major money laundering scandals in recent years.

In late 2017, the “Azerbaijani Laundromat” investigation from the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) revealed that between 2012 and 2014, two Danish banks operating in Estonia, Danske Bank and Nordea, handled up to 2.4 billion euros (US$2.7 billion) from suspicious Azerbaijani sources. The scale of the operation is now estimated to be US$230 billion.

Bloomberg reported on this story and more in October 2018, “Dirty Money, Fraud and Tax Evasion Rock Corruption-Free Denmark

Rest assured, Danes are asking, “How can we be the least corrupt country in the world”.

Least corrupt is not un-corrupt

Least corrupt does not equate to not corrupt. Anti-corruption advocates in TI-CPI top countries are well aware that they are not corruption free and must remain vigilant in corruption prevention efforts. While they are in an enviable position of being able to focus more on corruption prevention than exposing corruption, we all face the challenge of complacency and risk of further infection from the disease of corruption.

Low corruption countries share common traits that are not impacted by any single event. These characteristics include open government, press freedom, civil liberties and independent judicial systems. According to Transparency International low corruption countries use a “bottom-up [participation] model based on public trust, transparency and social capital.” They “all have high GDP per capita, low inequality rates, literacy rates close to 100%, and prioritize human right issues (e.g. gender equality, freedom of information).”

Impact on the Corruption Perceptions Index

The impact of recent corruption cases is not reflected in Denmark’s 2018 TI-CPI score due to the timing of survey data collection and compilation latency. 

Our expectation, however, is that downward movement in 2019 will likely not be catastrophic. Denmark will undoubtedly remain in the top 6 if not the top 3. Denmark will respond – as New Zealand would – in a way that demonstrates the robustness of their integrity systems and remain consistently at the top in the long run.

The fundamental contributing factors to Denmark’s low corruption culture are unchanged.

Turn low corruption into no corruption

The ongoing challenge for New Zealand – and Denmark – is to strive for perfection and satisfy our critics by turning low corruption into no corruption. We need to remain vigilant about strengthening our institutions of democracy, human rights and systems of transparency.

TINZ is always looking for financial support, members, subject matter experts and organizations to join us in the challenge of making New Zealand a corruption free role model. How would you like to help?