Transparency International Mucks It Up on 419

Transparency International is a respected organization which researches corruption and fights it worldwide. They are probably most noted for the publication of their annual Corruption Index, in which all the nations of the world are ranked on how corrupt they are (Nigeria being consistently ranked among the most corrupt and in some years as the Most corrupt nation in the world ).

The Executive Director of the British branch of TI issued a statement on 16 JUL 2001 in relation to one 419 case. There was no problem with the statement as it applied to that particular case. However, he added a General statement to the effect that those who lose money to the 419ers are all as guilty as the 419ers themselves, and that the money losers should all be investigated and prosecuted on top of losing their money.

The current President of Nigeria, Olesegun Obasanjo, worked for Transparency International for several years between his first truncated term as President of Nigeria and his current term. The Executive Director of the British branch of TI who issued the quote has publicly described Obasanjo as a "Friend and Mentor".

419 Coalition can understand and sympathize with a possible desire to stand by a friend, mentor, and former colleague in a tight spot. And Obasanjo is indeed in a tight spot as although there has been Some movement on the part of the Obasanjo government in curbing 419 there has been NO substantial impact in that regard to date.

Obasanjo continues to be under heavy criticism domestically and internationally for his failure to control 419. The consequences of this failure in terms of the lack of badly needed foreign investment in Nigeria and the drying up of sorely needed international credit resources available to Nigeria continue to further devastate the already marginal Nigerian economy. Good intentions alone on the part of Obasanjo, it seems, are not enough to control 419.

This is of course unfortunate for the Majority of Nigerians at home and abroad who are good, honest hardworking people. They continue to suffer the direct and indirect indignities and other personal and professional consequences brought on them by the 419ers. It is very difficult for people to tell who is a 419er and who is not a 419er without a programme. And there Are No programmes...

On the subject of prosecuting the demand-siders ( money-losers) of 419, All the Governments of the world of which we are aware Except for the Nigerian Government have Rejected the concept of prosecuting those who lose money to 419, leaving Transparency International and the Government of Nigeria Alone in that position. The general consensus among authorities competent in 419 matters is that Those Who Benefit Illegally From 419 Operations Should Be Prosecuted Wherever They Are And Whatever Nationality They Are. That is also the 419 Coalition position in this matter.

And, actually, to give credit where credit is due, even the Obasanjo government has backed off some from the historical Nigerian Government knee-jerk position that all "demand-siders" of the 419 equation be prosecuted. Therefore, TI is really out on a limb on this one...

Not wanting to be at loggerheads with TI on this matter, we wrote them, politely explaining both the theoretical and practical flaws their position, and suggested that they might want to clarify their position on 419 in future announcements etc. But Transparency International, after some discussion with 419 Coalition, declined that opportunity, saying, in part:

"We have looked again at the statement and cannot agree that you are reading it properly..... "

Well, it looked to us like a pretty clear call to prosecute those who lose money to 419. Here are the pertinent parts of the Transparency International press release of 16 JUL 2001, you can judge for yourself:

"There are thousands of these letters and emails floating round the world, and we have yet to see one which was not obviously an invitation to participate in a criminal conspiracy," said Jeremy Pope, London-based executive director of Transparency International.

"This should serve as a cautionary tale to all those participating in illegal letter-scam operations," he said. "We would like to see all those who take up these lucrative and blatantly criminal offers investigated and prosecuted, not extended tea and sympathy by an unquestioning media," he added.

Anyway, we responded to this on a point by point basis. Here is what we said: ***************************************************************************

419 Coalition: We've looked at your recent news release on the Transparency International site, and, unfortunately, some of your facts are not accurate as given. We're not going to make a federal case out of it, as we know you meant well. Here is the piece, with our comments between the lines:

TI: There are thousands of letters circulating round the globe with promises of instant wealth in exchange for help transfering funds out of Nigeria and other countries.

419 Coalition: Yes, this is one form of 419, Classic 419, and it is the most prevalent. The second most prevalent version is Black Currency 419. These, and all forms of 419, are not new, mass mailings etc. go back to the mid-1980's.

419 Coalition: We pointed out in a later notes that at any given point in time there are closer to Millions of 419 letters and emails floating around the globe rather than "thousands".

419 Coalition: We demonstrated to TI, using US Government approved and other materials, that Not all 419 solicitations are obvious invitations to participate in a criminal enterprise.

419 Coalition: We told TI that if they needed more confirmation that all 419 solicitations were Not obvious invitations to participate in criminal enterprises, the US Secret Service 419 Task Force would be happy to confirm this. Of course, it would have been helpful if TI had checked with them or other competent authorities that handle 419 matters on a daily basis Before they put out this press release :) :)

419 Coalition: Accordingly, if TI had never before seen any examples of 419 letters which were Not obvious invitations to participate in an obvious criminal enterprise, they certainly have seen some now, and that is a Fact.

TI: But the latest case of UK former Tory Party deputy mayor of Northampton who was held at gunpoint in Johannesburg last week by fraud artists is not the case of an innocent businessman being duped, says Transparency International.

419 Coalition: OK, we understand, regular Classic 419.

TI: "These letters are obviously an invitation to participate in a criminal conspiracy," said Jeremy Pope, London-based executive director of Transparency International.

419 Coalition: Now, here is where the problem is. There are many so-called "legal" forms of 419 in which the victim cannot be considered a criminal or a co-conspirator. These include - Goods and Services 419; Will Scam 419; Real Estate 419; and outright Extortion 419. You can confirm this with the United States Secret Service 419 Task Force.

419 Coalition: In short, the letters are NOT always an invitation to participate in a criminal conspiracy, though apparently those in the case you were looking at were.

TI: "We would like to see all those who take up these lucrative and blatantly criminal offers investigated and prosecuted, not extended tea and sympathy by an unquestioning media," he said.

419 Coalition: Our position and that of most of the governments of the world on this is that, even assuming all victims are criminals, which is not the case, until Nigeria starts prosecuting the criminals who Make the Money, nobody is going to prosecute those who Lose the Money. In addition, your plan is a disincentive for people to come forward. The less people who come forward, the less opportunity there is to catch the criminals who Make the Money. Therefore, if you like, you may think of the people who Do come forward in Classic 419 matters as a form of State's Evidence as it were.

419 Coalition: If you'd like to discuss 419 further, we are at your disposal. We've been at educating re 419 for some time now, and are capable of answering any questions and of intelligently discussing most matters concerning it. **********************************************************************

We politely pointed out to TI that since we were "specialists" as it were in 419 matters, while they are understandably very busy with other matters, we were likely a bit more conversant with 419 than they were, so that any confusion on their part concerning 419 was understandable (we were trying to be tactful) :) :)

However, Transparency International has Chosen to Ignore the fact that there Are Indeed cases of 419 in which there is No Question Of Victim As Criminal. This contradicts the position on that point held by the US Governnment, the UK Government, and every other authority in the World competent in 419 matters of which we are aware (save the Nigerian Government, and even they are coming around) :) :)

This is indeed unfortunate, as Transparency International's whole existence is based on credibility and integrity, and when they have so Obviously screwed up they should be falling all over themselves to make it right. But no...... they'd apparently rather ignore the facts than be embarrassed. What that says about TI's integrity, credibility, and transparency, at least in 419 matters, if anything, the reader can judge for himself.

Quite frankly, 419 Coalition was Shocked when Transparency International, given the chance to put things right, declined to do so. But that is what has happened.

Let us make it perfectly clear: 419 Coalition, and all the Governments of the World, (other than the Nigerian) say it'll be a cold day in hell before the money losers are prosecuted while the Money Makers are getting away with 419 scot free.

Until the supply-side money makers of Nigerian 419 are prosecuted, convicted, and the monies they have stolen are repatriated in anything like the massive amounts that have been stolen over the years, any thought of prosecuting the demand-side money losers is patently absurd, Transparency International's unfortunate views in this matter notwithstanding.

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