March 26, 2015
Since 2010 WikiLeaks has been publishing US embassy cables; which are in fact confidential documents containing communication details between embassies around the world and the State Department of Washington DC. Once in a while I read these looking for communications citing Mauritius. Today I found this particular cable intriguing…
The full cable can be found on WikiLeaks Cablegate using reference ID 08PORTLOUIS205. This particular cable highlights serious concerns regarding corruption cases as cited by the then Director of the Mauritius Customs service, Bert C. Cunningham.
The cable is signed by US Ambassador Cesar Cabrera.
I will quote only a few paragraphs that got me thinking. The summary of the message states the following:
1. (C) SUMMARY: Recent allegations and press reports on corruption scandals in Mauritius highlight an often overlooked issue by those new to or unfamiliar with the island. Upon first impression, Mauritius may look relatively clean, but with some digging - one may find questionable dealings under the surface. Despite the founding of Mauritius' Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) in 2002, the country still suffers from a pervasive and ingrained problem. END SUMMARY.
Bert C. Cunnigham then cites death threats, intimidation by Goverment officials, killing of a smuggler in Police custody and corruption in Mauritius.
Cunningham stated that, during a meeting on April 11, 2008, with government officials, including the Financial Secretary of the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development, Ali Mansoor, and Deputy Commissioner of Police, Khemraj Servansing, he was told in no uncertain terms that he should remain quiet about the alleged corruption because if it were to become public, it could bring down the current government of Mauritius. Cunningham noted that he felt warned or even threatened during the meeting. Cunningham also stated that he recently received written death threats, which he threw out.
Bert C. Cunnigham describes corruption and doubtful activities he witnessed while in office. However, one particular case captured my attention where he mentions the beating to death of smuggler by police in Rodrigues. He states that the matter was covered up and didn’t reach media.
... According to Cunningham, the police beat the male smuggler to death that evening while in custody. (Comment: To date, there has been no press report of this incident. End Comment.) ... Cunningham stated that he has hundreds of officers that need to be fired due to poor performance and probable corruption, but the most severe measure he has been able to take so far is to place some on administrative leave with full pay.
This one says a lot about drug circulation on the island.
Cunningham further alleged that the official responsible for overseeing the destruction of all drugs confiscated by police in Mauritius, privately admitted to him that he in fact does not attend the actual destruction. Cunningham implied that the drugs taken in by police during busts are in turn sold by police.
The cable mentions about “Protection Money” taken by Police and cites the names of a few. When talking of the then Prime Minister, Navin Chandra Ramgoolam, the cable states:
Prime Minister Navin Ramgoolam silenced all calls for a special investigation into the MCIT "protection money" during a November 27, 2007, parliamentary session.
The cable ends with the following conclusion:
8. (SBU) Conclusion: Post believes that corruption is a problem in Mauritian society that is overlooked by a number of private businesses, NGO's and Government agencies. Cunningham's allegations, although startling, seem to be backed up by other entities, and may be only the tip of the iceberg. ICAC's web-site http://www.gov.mu/portal/sites/icac/index.htm lists several recent prosecutions, all of which are low level with minor penalties. Post will monitor the progress of corruption allegations and report on the outcome of the various investigations.
While it seems that a foreigner was more serious and tried to do everything within his capacity to monitor and report corruption cases, I don’t know if I can say the same for Government officials. Have I ever seen any Government official standing up for the country & denouncing corrupt ones? No. Some stay quiet out of fear while some simply join the corrupt.
Fellow blogger, Yashvin, wrote an article about this cable back in 2011 : More revelations by wikileaks : Drugs, ICAC, Corruption and Customs