By Russ Warner, VP Marketing & Operations –
You don’t often hear positive Eastern European news stories. With the Greek economic catastrophe and the Russia-Ukraine battle over Crimea, it seems there’s a drought of positive press in that region right now. However, a small anti-corruption task force in Croatia is starting to make some headlines in its fight against the engrained institutional corruption that has a stronghold on the country.
In 2002, under pressure from the EU, the United States and its own constituents, the Croatian Parliament approved a national anti-corruption strategy — the first of its kind. The USKOK law, named after Croatian corsairs, created a new bureau with high levels of autonomy and a broad mandate.
A Rocky Beginning
The new bureau quickly ran into problems. It lacked political support, resulting in two changes of directors. It was grossly underfunded and didn’t have enough staff. In 2005 — and while Croatia still lacked EU membership (due to high levels of corruption) — Parliament dramatically increased USKOK’s powers. With this strategic move, USKOK’s prosecutors had the authority to inspect the financial data of individuals and businesses, freeze assets, and conduct undercover operations. That same year, a Yugoslav-era prosecutor named Dink Cvitan became the director of USKOK and he quickly went to work.
Cvitan’s first order of business was to hire staff to execute the bureau’s new powers. Then he went about winning public trust, which included having all of USKOK’s prosecutors undergo media training. The real test, however, finally came in 2006.
Taking Off the Training Wheels
USKOK’s first major investigation, named Maestro, centered on the financials dealings of the officials in charge of the Croatian Privatization fund. After weeks of 14-hour workdays in investigation, the vice president was sentenced to 11 years in prison. With that, USKOK set the standard as Croatia’s new hope for a corruption-free country.
The crowning achievement for USKOK came in 2010, when its efforts resulted in the arrest of the former Prime Minister Sanader. In July 2009, Sanader resigned unexpectedly halfway through his term. The media had begun investigating his hidden wealth — he apparently hoped to end the scrutiny by resigning. USKOK refused to let him go and later charged him and several associates for accepting illegal kickbacks. Sanader was arrested in December 2010 in Austria.
While USKOK stands as a great example as an anti-corruption success story, not all such ventures are equally as provident. Thankfully, with the newest lie detection technology EyeDetect®, anti-corruption movements worldwide will be empowered to achieve greater success. With 85 percent accuracy, EyeDetect can determine which politicians are honest and which are receiving bribes and kickbacks. This tool can reduce corruption levels and help people trust in their governments once again.