Corruption in Germany: more and more bribe-givers, fewer bribe-takers
In terms of corruption, Germany is one of the ten most prosperous countries. The situation, experts say, would be even better with stricter rules for financing political parties.
Provided by Deutsche Welle
It is customary to judge the level of corruption in Germany, as well as in other countries, by two indicators. One is the annual rating of the perception of this problem, which is compiled by the international non-governmental organization Transparency International (TI) based on surveys and expert assessments.
The second indicator is the reports of the Federal Office for Criminal Cases (Bundeskriminalamt, BKA), which keeps statistics of various offenses and knows exactly how many criminal cases in a given year were opened on corruption charges, how many of them were brought to court, how many defendants were justified, and how many were punished.
Transparency International rating
Having analyzed the situation in 180 countries in 2019, TI experts made a rating in which Germany received 80 points out of 100 possible. 100 points means there is no corruption at all, 0 points – it is total.
At the Berlin office of Transparency International
Neither one nor the other indicator was awarded to any country. Germany shares a decent ninth place with Luxembourg, behind New Zealand and Denmark (87 points each), Finland (86), as well as Switzerland, Singapore and Sweden (85 each), Norway (84) and the Netherlands (82). Syria, South Sudan and Somalia are at the bottom of the rating (178, 179 and 180 places respectively).
In the post-Soviet space, the situation is considered the most favorable in Estonia (18th place, 74 points), and unfavorable – in Turkmenistan (165th place, 19 points). Russia is 137th with 28 points. Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, Kenya, Mauritania and Uganda received the same amount.
Germany's reputation damaged by party funding rules
Germany's reputation, according to TI, could have improved if the country had adopted stricter rules regarding donations to political parties. “Too often, this is bypassing the statutory rules for publishing donations and exploiting loopholes,” the organization said in a 2019 report.
As Hartmut Bäumer, chairman of the German section of TI, explained, “the accusations against the Alternative for Germany (AfD) party of receiving hidden electoral aid and the corruption scam in Regensburg clearly showed that we need more transparency and restrictions on the size of party funding. “.
As it turned out, the right-wing populist AfD received illegal donations from Switzerland, and the burgomaster of the city of Regensburg, Joachim Wolbergs, provided services to local entrepreneurs in exchange for 75,000 euros transferred to his Social Democratic Party.
TI considers it necessary to oblige parties in Germany to publish the names of sponsors who donate over 2,000 euros, and to ban donations over 50,000 euros per year to the same party altogether. “It is not possible to create the impression that the higher the amount of donations, the greater the influence on the political decision-making process,” says Hartmut Beumer.
Due to the fact that now only donations exceeding 10,000 euros are publicized, 75 percent of the funds received by the German political parties from companies and individuals, according to the anti-lobbyist public organization LobbyControl, remain in the shadows.
Both defendants in the corruption deal are criminals
Unlike Transparency International, the Federal Office for Criminal Affairs is not engaged in subjective assessments of the level of corruption in Germany, but rather specific corrupt officials. True, the BKA does not claim to be completely objective and exhaustive in its annual reports.
One of the BKA buildings in Wiesbaden
The problem is, the detectives explain, that both the persons involved in the corruption deal – the one who gives and the one who takes a bribe – are criminals. And unlike ordinary criminality, there is usually no innocent victim willing to go to the police. Nevertheless, the BKA's annual report makes it possible to judge, if not the specific level of corruption in Germany, then at least the dynamics in this area.
The BKA report for 2019, which was presented only in mid-November, lists 5,428 successfully completed criminal cases on corruption articles, under which 2,539 defendants were involved (1,423 bribes were given, 1116 were taken). This is 42 percent more than a year earlier. However, BKA explains such a sharp jump by “the completion of several large investigations, which significantly influenced the statistics.” In general, from 2015 to 2018, the corruption burden on German courts has steadily decreased.
Two corrupt burgomasters and many clerks
Among the most high-profile cases of 2019 is the trial of the already mentioned burgomaster of Regensburg, who helped to improve the financial situation not only of the local branch of the Social Democratic Party, but also his own.
His former colleague from neighboring Ingolstadt, Alfred Lehmann of the Christian Social Union, also distinguished himself. Occupying the post of burgomaster, he, in particular, helped a local construction company to get an order for the construction of a not very necessary, but very expensive soundproof wall, and in exchange he was able to buy an apartment in a new building at a significant discount.
According to the BKA, in 67 percent of all cases, bribes were taken by civil servants and officials, and the number of high-ranking officials, such as two burgomasters, is decreasing, while ordinary clerks, on the contrary, are becoming more and more. It is on them that the issuance of all kinds of permits depends, for example, for construction work.
And they take bribes not so much in money as in services, tickets to concerts, invitations to a restaurant, credit benefits, as well as in kind in the form of gift sets of delicacies, wine, consumer electronics and even … bicycles. After converting such non-financial benefits into euros, BKA generated an amount of 52 million euros. And the total damage caused to the treasury is estimated by the department at 47 million euros.
Corruptors with foreign passports
By the way, about the persons involved in corruption cases. Their total number from 2018 to 2019 increased slightly (by 3.3 percent), but among them there were significantly more people who give bribes (plus 54 percent), while the number of bribe-takers, on the contrary, decreased (by 27 percent).
The BKA also takes into account the country of origin of corrupt officials. More than 80 percent of them are Germans, but the share of foreigners (mainly Turks) in just a year has grown by 125 percent: from 161 to 363 people. 330 of them took bribes, 33 – gave.
A third of the Bundestag deputies work on the side
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Author: Nikita Zholkver, Berlin