Going after the corrupt elite is the only way to prevent corruption on all levels of society, according to politician and graft buster Dr. Subramanian Swamy in a club lunch discussing the issue and how it affects India.
And if you want to prevent so-called ‘black money’ – corrupt money kept seemingly at arm’s length in overseas accounts – from lining the pockets of greedy officials, take the lead of the German government, which in the Liechtenstein tax scandal of 2008 ended up paying off a bank employee to hand over a list of clients who were ferreting money away, he said.
Mr Swamy, a member of India’s parliament, has been highlighting corruption in government for several years and is currently awaiting the trial of Sonia Gandhi – President of the main opposition Indian National Congress party, and her son, Rahul, on graft charges. The Gandhis — part of the famous political dynasty that includes India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and his daughter Indira Gandhi – are alleged to have illegally acquired the now-defunct National Herald newspaper’s assets after buying its publisher through a new private company, Young Indian, using a loan from party funds.
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The Ghandis are currently on bail awaiting the start of the trial on December 9.
Dr Swamy has used the courts in order to go after the most influential people in the country and played a major role in exposing the 2G spectrum scam. He spends most of his time poring over documents and legal framework to determine whether laws have been broken by those alleged to be engaged in corrupt practices.
Mr Swamy uses a mathematical analysis based on the probability of detection to explain how people come to accept bribes. He concludes that the cost to the corrupt person of being caught, and probability-weighted average with the value of the gain from the corrupt act proves that even if the probability of detection is low, if the cost to the corrupt of detection is some big multiple of the gain from the corrupt act, every rational person would voluntarily choose not to bribe or accept a bribe.
But he says corruption isn’t only a temptation of the elite – in India it filters down to all sections of society. He said that despite having the checks and balances of the judiciary and the media, corruption was still widespread as people felt over-taxed throughout the country.
But he added: “Unless you catch the people at the top you cannot create the necessary fear factor for those at the bottom.”
When asked about the recent demonetisation of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 bank notes in India in a bid to uncover billions of dollars in undeclared wealth, Dr Swamy criticised the government for a lack of contingency plan to ensure ordinary citizens were not left without cash.
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