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IdentifierCreatedClassificationOrigin
07PARAMARIBO470 2007-09-06 20:20:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Paramaribo
Cable title:  

COMBATTING CORRUPTION: THE NEW COOL IN SURINAME

Tags:   PGOV KCOR NS 
pdf how-to read a cable
VZCZCXRO0235
RR RUEHAO
DE RUEHPO #0470/01 2492020
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
R 062020Z SEP 07
FM AMEMBASSY PARAMARIBO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 9649
INFO RUCNCOM/EC CARICOM COLLECTIVE
RUEHAO/AMCONSUL CURACAO 1158
					  C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 PARAMARIBO 000470 

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

DEPT FOR WHA/CAR: JROSHOLT; INR FOR BCARHART; EB FOR BETH
LAMPRON

E.O. 12958: DECL: 08/30/2017
TAGS: PGOV KCOR NS
SUBJECT: COMBATTING CORRUPTION: THE NEW COOL IN SURINAME

REF: PARAMARIBO 444



1. (SBU) SUMMARY: While police have arrested two people in
connection with the embezzlement scandal at the Ministry of
Finance (reftel), Minister Humphrey Hildenberg has asked the
Government's Central Accounting Department (CLAD) to launch a
second investigation at his Ministry, this time at the Tax
Revenue Service. Post also learned that the Ministry of
Justice and Police has stepped to the plate and created a
corruption working group to be headed by its most prominent
public prosecutor. Meanwhile, corruption legislation has
been written and is waiting to be placed on the agenda of the
National Assembly for discussion. Public presumption that
its passage is hampered by corruption in the National
Assembly itself may not be far off the mark, as corruption
permeates the system in Suriname. END SUMMARY



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FINANCE MINISTRY ARRESTS


--------------------------





2. (U) Police have arrested two staff members of the
Ministry of Finance for their role in the embezzlement
scandal (reftel) there, including the supposed ringleader.
The amount of the embezzlement currently is estimated at U.S.
$1.96 million as the CLAD investigators continue to try to
determine the full extent of abuse. Their investigation has
so far identified six businessmen and three lower-level staff
members of the Ministry's accounting and finance department,
and more arrests are likely. Despite opposition calls for
his resignation, Minister Hildenberg remains above the fray,
and has garnered the public support of President Venetiaan.



3. (U) Minister Hildenberg has ordered the CLAD to launch a
second investigation at his Ministry, and this time the
target is the Office for Entertainment Taxes of the Tax
Revenue Service. The investigation was ordered after a
promoter approached the Minister personally. The promoter
claims two officials of the Office of Entertainment Taxes
manipulated tickets. When promoters brought tickets to the
tax office for stamping, the officials would only stamp half
of the tickets, then order the promoters to pay the taxes for
those tickets at the office. The other half of the tickets
would remain unstamped, and the officials would go to the
events, stamp the tickets on the spot, and take the money in
cash. Or, they would hold on to them, personally deliver
them to the promoters, and then take the money for the
tickets in cash. Pending the investigation the two officials
have been placed on administrative leave.



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CORRUPTION WORKING GROUP


--------------------------





4. (U) In an effort to tackle the corruption problems the
GOS faces, the Ministry of Justice and Police ordered the
formation of a Corruption Working Group. Prominent public
prosecutor Garcia Paragsingh told EmbOff she will chair the
group. Dynamic and energetic, Paragsingh also chairs the
trafficking in persons working group, and has successfully
prosecuted four brothel owners. Paragsingh told Emboff that
one of her goals as chair of the corruption group will be to
write a Code of Conduct for government officials.



--------------------------


DRAFT ANTI-CORRUPTION LEGISLATION


--------------------------





5. (U) The formation of a corruption working group might
assist in the solution to a more pressing matter: the passing
of anti-corruption legislation. Draft legislation was
prepared in 2002 and approved by the Council of Ministers and
the State Council, then presented to the National Assembly
for further discussion. While the opposition in the National
Assembly has complained about the wave of corruption and
called for Minister Hildenberg to resign, the government has
responded that the Assembly has failed to do its work and
pass corruption legislation; the law has still not been
discussed in parliament. Both opposition and coalition
members are now asking for this issue to finally be resolved,
citing the Ministry of Finance case as a demonstration of
need.



--------------------------


DON'T BITE YOUR OWN HAND: IT FEEDS YOU


--------------------------





6. (C) The delay in passage of the proposed corruption law
is widely attributed to the desire of some parliamentarians

PARAMARIBO 00000470 002 OF 002


to protect their own interests. Member of Parliament Harriet
Ramdien gave an example of Parliamentary complicity, telling
Emboff that she was the only Member of Parliament not to
accept the corrupt gift of a free plot of land following the
last election in 2005. In addition, the corruption law as
drafted calls for financial disclosure by all government
employees. In a nation whose public sector is estimated to
be as large as 50% of the economy, this means the law
threatens the interests of a potentially large
constituency--and may be impractical, as critics claim. The
prospects for passage in the law,s current form seem dim.



7. (C) COMMENT: The wave of anti-corruption investigations
and sentiments is welcome. Moreover, a focus on lower-level
bureaucrats committing common violations is likely to do more
to target this widespread problem than calls for high-profile
Ministerial resignations, which titillate the public but lend
a smokescreen behind which perpetrators continue to make an
extra living. Methods of corruption in Suriname (will report
septel) are varied, complex, and rampant. For an attack on
corruption to work, a strong law will have to be passed, and
new corruption-coordinator Paragsingh will have to be
forceful. This will not be easy. While laudable, her four
trafficking-in-persons convictions are less than could be
hoped for, and those convicted received only light sentences
from Suriname's lenient judiciary--which also exhibits
indicators of internal corruption. It will take more than a
handful of legal slaps on the wrists to make a dent in the
culture of routine corruption in Suriname. END COMMENT
GENTON