Tuesday, 19 August 2014

A law unto themselves

I have just listened to Helena Kennedy's interview of Eva Joly on Radio 4. It brought out a sobering account of big business stealing public money, not only in France and Francophone Africa, but also on a global scale. Having successfully prosecuted corrupt politicians and business people in France, she went on to investigate what happened to aid money in Afghanistan and found that less than 20% found its way to the citizens it was intended to help. Most was diverted to bank accounts in Dubai where the authorities have resisted forensic attempts to obtain further information.

Joly made the point that she was able to succeed in France because investigating judge is a career path one can embark on, and be trained for, from an early stage there. (The option also enables more women to enter the ranks of the judiciary than over here.) She also asserted that, because so much detailed investigative work could be cleared beforehand, trials were shorter and the outcome more certain than under a common law system like that of England and Wales.

That cannot be the whole story. It is surely significant that Eva Joly was an outsider, brought up in a Nordic country where public morality is ingrained and the Gallic shrug is abhorrent. Moreover, one has not seen high-profile prosecution of financial miscreants in Scotland, which has a basically similar judicial process as France. Remember the Royal Bank of Scotland, headquartered in Edinburgh?

She is surely right in calling for action on a global scale, though, and expansion of the anti-corruption network, sharing information, which she assisted in creating.

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