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New Zealand’s History Reveals Wilful Blindness To Political Corruption And Organised Crime

Asia Pacific AML – Written By Kerry Grass*

Since 2010, I Have Been Operating As An Anti-money Laundering Consultant. In This Role, I Enjoy Reporting On The Principles Of Anti-corruption And Anti-bribery Laws. Being A Citizen Of New Zealand, I Follow These Topics Closely In My Home Country.

Before Transitioning Into Anti-money Laundering Compliance, I Worked As An Investigator In Corporate Fraud. With The Skills Of A Corporate Fraud Investigator, I Am Familiar With The Approach Of Establishing Information ‘beyond Any Doubt’.

Over The Past 10 Years I Have Used These Same Skills To Demonstrate To NZ Government Officials, The Weaknesses In New Zealand’s Ability To Reduce Organised Crime, Bribery And Corruption. This Includes Political Corruption.

Though New Zealand Has Always Been Perceived As A Country That Presents A Low-risk To Corruption, The Reality Is New Zealand Operates With Complacency To Corruption. New Zealand Is A Country That Does Not Have Any Controls To Effectively Or Adequately Detect, Report And Reduce Corruption. In Closing The Year 2023, This Is The Ongoing Status Of New Zealand’s Anti-corruption And Anti-bribery Controls.

Because Of The Close Connection Of Organised Crime To Corruption, No Country Can Be Complacent To The Harms Of Corruption.

New Zealand's Complacency To Corruption Is Only One Of The Reasons Why New Zealand Is Experiencing An Unprecedented Threat From Trans-national Criminal Groups Who Flood The Community With Methamphetamine.

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New Zealand’s Poor History Of Combatting Corruption

As A State Member Of The United Nations, New Zealand Must Implement Protocols And Resolutions Of The United Nations Security Council.

In October 2003 The General Assembly Of The United Nations Adopted The Convention Against Corruption. The Convention Covers Many Different Forms Of Corruption, Such As Bribery, Trading In Influence, Abuse Of Functions, And Various Acts Of Corruption In The Private Sector. New Zealand’s ‘implementation’ Of The Convention Against Corruption Was Not Made Until 2015. In Comparison To Other Countries, Australia Ratified The Convention In 2005, The United Kingdom In 2006 And Canada In 2007.

During These Times When New Zealand Operated Without The Appointment Of Any Anti-corruption And Anti-bribery Agency, New Zealand Was Being Recognised As The Least Likely Country Where Corruption And Bribery Would Occur. The Obvious Weakness Is The Reputation Is Failing To Take Into Consideration That New Zealand Was Operating Without An Anti-corruption And Anti-bribery Agency. Without An Agency Being Appointed To Receive Reports And Investigate Reports Of Corruption And Bribery, There Would Obviously Be No Monitoring Or Reporting Of Incidents.

Obvious Weaknesses In A Country’s Structure To Prevent Corruption Attract Those Who Want To Commit Bribery And Corruption. Those At The Top Of The List Are Trans-national Organised Criminals Who Are Experts In Their Field. They Infiltrate Private Business And Public Officials.

New Zealand’s Ongoing Lack Of Prioritising A Response To Corruption And Performing At International Standards Is A Clear Sign Of Complacency To The Real Problems That Impact Domestic And International Communities.

New Zealand In 2024?

Heading Into The October 2023 Elections, It Was Therefore Disappointed To See Only One Political Party Had Identified The Need For New Zealand To Implement An Independent Anti-Corruption Agency. This Party Was New Zealand First, Led By Winston Peters (now NZ's Deputy Prime Minister). However, The Coalition Negotiations With The ACT Party And National Party Appear To Have Overturned The Desires Of Mr Peters.

Requirements Of The United Nations Convention And OECD Standards Require Countries To Reduce The Threat Of International Organised Criminal Groups. Failing To Do So Not Only Creates A Conduit Country That Facilitates Organised Crime, But It Also Undermines The Efforts Of Those Countries That Uphold Standards.

Complacency Of Threats To International Security Can Lead To Political Embarrassment And Create Concerns From Key Trading Partners. Should Matters Be Serious, International Oversight Bodies Can Intervene In Country Ratings Which Can Impact On The Flow Of Trade And International Funding.

Discussions On Topics Of Corruption And Bribery Therefore Require A Bit Of 'tip-toeing' Around These Delicate And Sensitive Topics But The Harm Of Corruption And Bribery Are So Great, That The Topics Should Not Be Ignored Completely.

I Eagerly Await To See What Policies Will Be Delivered By New Zealand’s Newly Created Coalition. Leading Into The Election, Each Leader Of The Parties Spoke Aggressively About Their Focus On Reducing Organised Crime. However, Only One Of The Three Parties Was Prioritising An Independent Anti-Corruption Agency. Now That The Coalition Negotiations Are Finished, There Is No Longer Any Talk About An Independent Anti-Corruption Agency. Committing Heavy Law Enforcement Resources To Request Gang Members To Remove Patches Does Nothing To Reduce Corruption And Bribery.

As An Anti-corruption Advocate, I Am Therefore Left Wondering How Will The Coalition Address New Zealand’s Weaknesses To High-priority International Standards:

Will New Zealand Continue Its Status Quo Of Being Complacent To Bribery And Corruption?

Will Government Officials Identify The Real Things Exposing New Zealanders To Harm From Organised Criminals?

Will New Zealanders Continue To Be Misled By Political Puff From Politicians?

Will International Governments Continue To Perceive New Zealand As Low Risk Of Facilitating International Organised Crime?

* Kerry Grass Has 20 Years Experience Of Working In The Field Of Anti-money Laundering Compliance. She Has Held Investigator Roles With Governments In New Zealand And Australia, As Well As A Financial Crime Compliance Role Within A Government Department Of The United Kingdom. Since 2010, She Has Operated Anti-Money Laundering Consultants Limited, Providing International Advisory Services

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