BEIJING: The 21 member countries of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation group (APEC) have agreed to exchange sensitive case information to combat large-scale corruption and bribery in the region.
A secretariat, to be hosted by China, will support ACT-NET – a new network of government anti-corruption authorities and law enforcement agencies.
"As domestic anti-corruption efforts intensify, corrupt officials flee abroad and remain at large by taking advantage of legal differences between our jurisdictions," said Fu Kui, vice minister of China's National Bureau of Corruption Prevention. "This is a serious challenge to each economy's rule of law."
"By building a multilateral platform to strengthen work-level exchange and case cooperation, and expand channels for anti-corruption and law enforcement partnership, we could cut off the escape route of corrupt fugitives," Fu explained.
The aim of ACT-NET is to exchange legal procedures and investigative techniques to fight business bribery and pursue corrupt officials and assets.
"Criminals don't stop at borders," said U.S. Ambassador to China Max Baucus. "So we must work together to stop them and fight graft internationally as well. Whether it is bribery, embezzlement, or the misuse of public funds, corruption is corrosive," he noted. "It scares investors and stifles economic growth. It decreases investment and trade. And that costs jobs for people in all of our economies."
Citing World Bank figures, APEC says corruption costs economies more than US$2.6 trillion annually, or five per cent of global GDP. It is also estimated to increase the cost of doing business by more than 10 percent.
"The establishment of this network is timely and crucial for APEC," added Atty Novyanty, senior prosecutor at Indonesia's Corruption Eradication Commission. "The trust and relationships that we build together will encourage a more open exchange of information and reduce dependence on formal cooperation or mutual legal assistance approaches for stronger, more effective law enforcement measures."