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India mulls law to make private sector bribes a criminal offense

Prime minister tries to wrest anti-corruption drive from opponents
Singh corruptionEnlarge
Indian women of the Lambadi tribe await the arrival of Senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Lal Krishna Advani during an 'All India anti-corruption yatra' on the outskirts of Hyderabad on October 19, 2011. India's 84-year-old leader of the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) L.K. Advani has begun a five-week road trip travelling 7,600 kilometers covering 23 states and four Union territories in span of 38 days across the country. (NOAH SEELAM/AFP/Getty Images)

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said his government is considering tightening India's laws to criminalize bribery that occurs in the private sector, the Economic Times reports.

The statement could be an attempt to flip the script on opponents in the Bharatiya Janata Party and Anna Hazare's anti-corruption movement, especially as two prominent figures from "Team Anna" face questions about their personal finances. Currently, pioneering policewoman Kiran Bedi is under fire for falsely reporting her travel expenses for speaking engagements and other personal appearances. Bedi has argued that there was no "personal gain" as she used the money saved through a travel discount she receives as a recipient of a gallantry medal for the benefit of her NGO, India Vision Foundation. Similarly, the tax department is after Team Anna leader Arvind Kejriwal for failing to pay employee dues.

Referring to the United Nations convention against corruption, which India has recently ratified, Singh said, "To meet the requirements of the convention, we have introduced a Bill in Parliament to make bribery of foreign public officials an offence. We are considering changes in our laws to criminalize private sector bribery."

A number of high-level business executives are already in jail awaiting trial for their alleged involvement in the so-called 2G telecom spectrum scam -- in which former telecom minister A. Raja allegedly distributed telecom licenses in exchange for kickbacks routed through shell companies.

Presumably, criminalizing bribes that take place entirely within the private sector would put dozens (or hundreds) more at risk of a similar fate.

Meanwhile, the BJP's L.K. Advani called Singh "the weakest PM ever" during his ongoing anti-corruption road show -- which traveled to Kolkata Friday.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatches/globalpost-blogs/the-rice-bowl/india-mulls-law-make-private-sector-bribes-criminal-offens

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