Honoring corruption fighters around the world

The U.S. Department of State is honoring a dozen brave individuals for combating corruption worldwide.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said February 23 that the honorees of the inaugural International Anticorruption Champions Awards “have worked tirelessly, often in the face of adversity, to defend transparency, combat corruption, and ensure accountability in their own countries.”

The honorees include public officials and citizens who fight for open, transparent government. They received their awards in virtual ceremonies or through U.S. embassies in their home countries.

Bolot Temirov, a journalist from the Kyrgyz Republic, is being honored for reporting that exposed large-scale international money laundering and forced political leaders to acknowledge corruption.

Anjali Bhardwaj promotes government accountability in India, advocating for public access to information, citizen involvement and whistleblower protections for those who expose abuse of power.

In a February 23 tweet, Bhardwaj called her award “a recognition of the collective effort of people and groups across the country who hold power to account.”

Blinken said the honorees exemplify the courage needed to fight corruption, which destroys trust in institutions, hinders economic growth, undermines democracy and facilitates transnational crime.

Honoree Diana Salazar, Ecuador’s attorney general, has prosecuted high-profile corruption cases and inspired prosecutors around South America. As chief of the Special Prosecutor’s Office Against Corruption and Impunity in Guatemala, Juan Francisco Sandoval Alfaro battled corruption and aided in the conviction of former President Alfonso Portillo and others on corruption-related charges.

Others honored for investigating or prosecuting corruption include Francis Ben Kaifala, commissioner of the Sierra Leone Anti-Corruption Commission, and Ruslan Ryaboshapka, a former general prosecutor of Ukraine. Albanian Judge Ardian Dvorani has fought for judicial reforms.

Dhuha A. Mohammed, director general of Iraq’s Central Bank, created a transparent system to prevent payroll fraud, and Sophia Pretrick of the Federated States of Micronesia launched anti-fraud public education programs. Mayor Victor Sotto of Pasig, Philippines, has prioritized transparency and anti-corruption initiatives both as Pasig city councilor and as mayor. As chairman of Libya’s National Oil Corporation, Mustafa Abdullah Sanalla protected Libya’s natural resources, while Ibrahima Kalil Gueye co-founded an organization that fights for open government and transparency in Guinea.

“As President Biden has emphasized, our commitment to truth, transparency, and accountability is a mission that we must live at home and exemplify abroad,” Blinken said in the February 23 announcement. “I commend the dedication of these 12 brave individuals to these same ideals.”

The United States is a world leader in fighting bribery and other forms of corruption, which costs the world at least $2 trillion annually, according to the International Monetary Fund.

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development praised U.S. anti-bribery efforts in a November report. Between 2010 and 2019, the United States convicted or sanctioned 174 companies and 115 individuals for foreign bribery or other offenses under the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, the report said.

By working with partners, the United States has recovered more than $1 billion in stolen public assets in the past two years, according to the State Department. The United States also promoted accountability for corrupt actors through targeted sanctions and visa restrictions. Since 2017, the United States has sanctioned 246 individuals and entities for their involvement in public corruption or serious human rights abuse under the Global Magnitsky sanctions program.