Defining corruption

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I was in Oslo this week for a conference on Illicit Financial Flows. There is little I can report - the event took place under Chatham House rules - but one interesting exchange is worth noting.

A member of Transparency International had noted some of the comments the Tax Justice Network has raised about its Corruption Perceptions Index and it definition of corruption, which is:

Corruption is operationally defined as the misuse of entrusted power for private gain.

TI further differentiates between "according to rule" corruption and "against the rule" corruption. Facilitation payments, where a bribe is paid to receive preferential treatment for something that the bribe receiver is required to do by law, constitute the former. The latter, on the other hand, is a bribe paid to obtain services the bribe receiver is prohibited from providing.

Note that this solely relates to bribery. Put simply we think that far too narrow but I admit we have never offered an alternative definition. On the spot I defined corruption as:

The use of deception to obtain an advantage

If I may be candid, for an instant reaction I was quite pleased with that, which is why I share it. It covers crime, civil offences and deceit that is simply unethical. It encompasses the TI concern.

But it embraces so much more, and so it should. Because corruption includes the supply of deception services - of the type that happen whenever a nominee arrangement is created in a tax haven - as well as the corrupt act itself.

Comments welcome.