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5 Mar, 2014

Logging, tax avoidance top 2013 corrupt activities in Laos


Vientiane, March 3, 2014 (Vientiane Times) – Logging and tax avoidance issues involved in by state officials topped corruption cases in 2013, officials in charge of anti-corruption announced.

Director General of the Government Inspection and Anti-corruption Authority (GIACA)’s External Relations Department, Mr Xaykham Ounmixay, revealed the findings at a meeting last week.

Over the past year the authority launched an inspection of 211 cases. Of these, 123 targets were inspected under the authority’s routine mandate, while the remaining 88 were looked at after the authority received an appeal or instruction to make an inspection.

Of those studied, a number of cases were found to have involved wrongdoing that breached laws and caused a certain amount of loss to the revenue, the director said.

But he did not give exact figures on cases of guilt nor the amount of loss involved.

The majority of the cases showed that state officials conspired with businesses to avoid paying taxes to benefit the businesses and achieve personal gain for the officials involved.

State officials involved in illegal logging in localities across the country were involved in the majority of the corruption cases, Mr Xaykham told the meeting.

The Thursday meeting reviewed the progress Laos has made in complying with the United Nations Convention against Corruption, to which Laos is a signatory.

In a separate meeting held earlier, economic police officers reported that the illegal timber trade topped the year’s list of fraud or economy-related cases.

Over the past year, 257 cases involving the illegal trading of timber were discovered out of a total of 559 cases recorded in 2013, according to a report presented at the annual meeting of the Economic Police Department under the Ministry of Public Security.

In a move to reduce illegal logging and trading, at its February monthly meeting in Vientiane the government instructed officials in charge to take greater action to prevent the export of unprocessed logs.

Mr Xaykham said despite the fact that the government has exerted greater effort to suppress corruption, the issue continues to surface.

Statistics compiled from 2006 to 2011 showed that more than 480 corruption cases were discovered in Laos, according to the GIACA.

The cases involved officials accepting bribes, embezzling state and individual assets, abusing power and producing fake documents for personal gain, among other offences.

Deputy Chairman of the GIACA, Mr Bounpone Sangsomsak, said at Thursday’s meeting that corruption is not a unique issue for Laos but a global one requiring many governments to take action to address.

He described corruption as ‘a threat’ which, he said, can cause the collapse of a political regime. For Laos, the government has formulated a number of laws and regulations to function as tools to fight corruption.

Laos signed the United Nations Convention against Corruption in December 2003 and ratified it in September 2009.