US-China APEC Anti-Corruption and Transparency (ACT) Workshop

Shanghai, People's Republic of China, 24 April 2006
  • Remarks by Debra Wong Yang, United States Attorney
  • Thank you, Director General Wang, for you kind introduction.
  • I would like to begin by welcoming everyone to this important workshop. I am extremely honored to be here with you in Shanghai.
  • Let me also say how pleased I am to see so many distinguished APEC officials and international experts here today. I know that all of you, like me, are committed to fighting corruption both in the Asia Pacific region and around the world. Meetings like this one are critical to our ability to cooperate and work together to solve this problem.
  • This morning I would like to say a few words about the importance of International cooperation in preserving the integrity and transparency of our economic and political systems.
  • But before I go any further, I would first like to deliver a message.
  • Minister Li Yufu, Deputy Mayor Feng Guoqin, Ambassadors Wang Xuexian and Tran Trong Toan, Your Excellencies and Distinguished Colleagues from APEC economies and Partner International organizations:
  • On behalf of President George W. Bush, who has worked with President Hu Jintao and other leaders, over the past two years to raise the issue of corruption in APEC, the United States applauds your determination and leadership to work cooperatively to fight corruption and ensure transparency in the Asia Pacific region.
  • We also applaud and thank our partners from the People's Republic of China for co-sponsoring this important workshop.
  • Clearly, the governments of the United States and China understand that global corruption is a serious problem.
  • In his discussions with President Hu and other APEC Leaders, President Bush has underscored how fighting corruption is a linchpin to the overall APEC work program.
  • And within the United States Department of Justice, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales has made safeguarding public integrity one of his top priorities. In fact, the Attorney General often reminds all of his prosecutors to operate with one principle in mind --- no one is above the law.
  • And why? Because corruption jeopardizes the integrity of world markets. It facilitates transnational crime and terrorism. It diverts public investment away from areas that need it most, such as public sector modernization and social development.
  • In short, corruption is a plague on all civilized societies.
  • But let me be clear, corruption is not just an Asia-Pacific problem. It is not just an African problem. It is not just a European problem. It is not a problem that is unique to any one region or country. It is a global problem.
  • And as one of the top law enforcement officials in the U.S. government, I can tell you first hand that we are fighting corruption within our own country.
  • Many of you may be familiar with some of the recent public corruption scandals in the United States.
  • For example, in January, former lobbyist Jack Abramoff pleaded guilty to a series of schemes involving his Washington, DC-based lobbying practice, through which he corrupted government officials and conspired to defraud his own clients.
  • And several few weeks ago, defense contractor Mitchell Wade pleaded guilty to paying former Congressman Duke Cunningham millions of dollars in bribes to advance Wade's Pentagon contracts.
  • The Department of Justice also recently convicted a Cleveland businessman Nate Gray on corruption charges involving public officials from Cleveland to Houston to New Orleans.
  • We are bringing these cases because we believe in preserving the integrity of our legal and political systems. And we are bringing these cases because we believe that the American people demand - and have the right to expect - honesty and integrity in government.
  • In addition to bringing high-profile prosecutions, we are also working behind the scenes to devote more resources to rooting out corruption. In fact, despite the investigative demands of the post-9/11 world, and the constant efforts to dismantle and disrupt terrorist networks, the FBI has not abandoned or neglected its anti-corruption program.
  • On the contrary, the FBI has made corruption its number one white collar priority and has dedicated significant resources to detect and investigate these crimes.
  • In the past 3 years alone, over 200 new agents have been added to corruption squads across the U.S. These agents will be doing only corruption cases not other types of white collar cases.
  • And here's something else you might not know about the U.S. anti-corruption efforts. In addition to investigating and prosecuting corruption at home, we are also working to stem corruption around the world.
  • And that is because fighting corruption is an important foreign policy priority for the President and the Attorney General.
  • In a statement to representatives of over 100 countries at the Fourth Global Forum on Fighting Corruption and safeguarding Integrity, President Bush stated:
  • "Every country is capable of fighting corruption, and the United States stands by nations who embrace transparency, promote the rule of law, and implement responsible economic policies? [and] is committed to working with dedicated partners to employ international anti-corruption measures, including denying safe haven to the corrupt, their corrupters, and their tainted assets."
  • At the Department of Justice, we are putting those anti-corruption words into action.
  • One of the ways in which we are doing that is by investigating those U.S. companies and individuals government officials. As I'm sure many of you are awre, our Foreign Corrupt Practices Act - or FCPA - makes it a serious federal crime to bribe foreign government officials for the purpose of obtaining or retaining business. And I am here to tell you that enforcing the FCPA is a major priority for the Department of Justice.
  • In that regard, the OECD Anti-bribery Convention and the OECD Working Group on Bribery provide important avenues for the Department of Justice to cooperate with counterparts outside the US to combat bribery in international business transactions.
  • In addition, we are also working jointly with our international counterparts to strengthen the institutions of government against the influence of corruption.
  • For example, the Department of Justice has an overseas prosecution training program called OPDAT that works with our international partners on building and strengthening the ability of countries to prosecute corruption.
  • And let me give you another example of how international cooperation has led to concrete results in the fight against corruption.
  • On January 31, 2006, five individuals - including 2 former bank managers - were indicted for engaging in an elaborate scheme to defraud the Bank of China of at least $485 million. The two managers stole the money from the bank, laundered it through Hong Kong, Canada, and the United States, among other countries.
  • They then attempted to flee China for the U.S. by assuming false identities entering into sham marriages to circumvent U.S. immigration laws.
  • The pending charges in the United states--- which are being prosecuted jointly by the Justice Department's Organized Crime and racketeering and Public Integrity Sections--- would not have been possible without the assistance and cooperation of the Ministry of Justice in the People's Republic of China.
  • PRC Ministry of Justice has provided essential documentary evidence in the case and , for the first time, allowed the United States to conduct depositions of several key witnesses located in PRC. This is a great example of how, working together, our two countries are bringing these fraudsters to justice. And bringing fraudsters to justice benefits both the U.S. and China.
  • Of course, maintaining the integrity of economic and political systems is about more than just fighting public corruption. It is about maintaining global confidence in our markets.
  • As you know, markets like stability and predictability. But more relevant to our discussion today, the financial markets want reliability, integrity, and transparency. Investing is itself a measure of trust. Investors don't put their money into companies, or markets, they don't trust.
  • And looking back on the U.S. corporate fraud scandals like Enron that began in 2001 and 2002, we all saw how the markets responded. They responded dramatically and negatively. When whole companies disappeared into thin air over night or crumbled like a house of cards - the markets crumbled, too.
  • The market's reaction was a simple and telling reminder that fraud is bad for business.
  • And so we reinvigorated our efforts against corporate fraud. One of the things we did within the Department of Justice was to set up a Corporate Fraud Task Force.
  • Since its inception in 2002 through this past December, the Justice Department's Corporate Fraud Task Force has obtained over 900 convictions. It has convicted 92 corporate presidents, 82 Chief Executive Officers, 40 Chief Financial Officers, 14 Chief Operating Officers, 98 Vice Presidents, and 17 corporate counsel or attorneys.
  • It is because we are so committed to safeguarding the integrity of our economic and political systems by fighting corruption and corporate fraud that we are gathered there today. Although we come from different backgrounds and political systems, we all believe that safeguarding our economic and political systems is critical to long-term peace and prosperity.
  • That is why I am so pleased to lead the U.S. delegation to this important conference. And I would be remiss if I did not highlight the importance of APEC to our international anti-corruption efforts.
  • Through the diligence of the APEC Anticorruption and Transparency (ACT) Task Force, APEC these days is sending a strong message internationally that economies in the Asia Pacific region are backing up their commitments to fight corruption.
  • For example, by implementing the Santiago Commitment and Busan Declaration, we are indeed taking strong actions to deny safe haven to corrupt public officials and closing our financial systems to keep corrupt individuals from enjoying the fruits of their illicit activities.
  • And of course, one cornerstone of our commitment within APEC has been our desire to implement the principles of the United Nations Convention against Corruption.
  • The UN Corruption Convention is the most ambitious international anti-corruption effort in history. It includes several fundamental principles that are critical in the fight against corruption.
  • Those principles include requiring or recommending criminalization of certain corrupt behavior, and requiring international cooperation on anti-corruption efforts.
  • Additionally, the Convention establishes a framework for recovery of illicit assets sent abroad by corrupt officials. Many developing countries saw the problem of corrupt officials acquiring assets illicitly and hiding those assets in other countries as the core problem that the Convention should address.
  • Those are just some of the things that APEC is doing to safeguard the political and economic achievements.
  • There is a saying that "a rising tide lifts all boats." I believe that APEC is that rising tide, lifting its members closer to the ultimate goal of government without corruption.
  • And so in closing , I would like to welcome you all once again to this important workshop. I am extremely pleased to be hear with you.
  • On behalf of the President and the Attorney General, we look forward to working with our APEC partners to continuing to fight corruption.
  • Together, we will work to ensure that all countries have effective anti-corruption mechanisms.
  • Together, we can reduce corruption and have a lasting impact on the integrity and transparency of the world's economic and political systems.
  • Thank you, and enjoy the rest of the conference.