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Viewing cable 07PARAMARIBO470, COMBATTING CORRUPTION: THE NEW COOL IN SURINAME

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
07PARAMARIBO470 2007-09-06 20:08 2011-02-10 16:04 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Paramaribo
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 

------------------------ 
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. 

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