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RKN Global on Corruption in Sports: More on Match-fixing’s Harms

Corruption in sports is an unfortunately too common phenomenon.  Match-fixing in particular is widespread in numerous sports in every country, yet there are many who are unaware of the problem, and others who remain unperturbed.

Ronald K. Noble, founder of RKN Global, expresses the unfortunate truth that match-fixing is, indeed, very harmful. In our last piece, we looked at the violent crimes that it brings in its wake.  But there are other reasons that match-fixing is so pernicious.  One of them is the support and succor it lends to organized crime.

The Canadian anti-match-fixing activist Declan Hill asserted years ago that all the major participants in sports recognize the hand of organized crime in sports:

“The very least is that all parties, soccer officials, players, and the fixers themselves, agree that organized crime gamblers do regularly approach teams to fix games at international tournaments. They are able to do so easily, and sometimes they succeed.”

Yet Hill’s quote really understates the role of organized crime in sports.  The Europol held a press conference in 2013 in which it described an investigation that revealed three hundred and eighty soccer matches that were fixed between 2009 and 2011, and pointed to an additional three hundred matches that were under suspicion for being fixed.  A Singapore-based organized crime group was fingered as responsible for these corrupt matches, perpetrated throughout the world.

Similarly, one of the most wanted terrorists and organized crime leaders in the world, Dawood Ibrahim, has played a role in fixing matches and sports corruption in Indian cricket.

The reason why organized crime groups are drawn to match-fixing is that it pays handsome dividends for low risk.  If their members are caught fixing matches, then the punishments are not very serious.  At the same time, they can make a great deal of money betting on fixed matches, and can also use the proceeds to launder money that they made in their other illegal businesses.   A 2014 estimate from the non-profit International Center for Sport Security estimated that 140 billion dollars each year were laundered by gambling on matches that were fixed.

Ronald K. Noble and RKN Global draw attention to how attractive match-fixing and sports corruption is to organized crime. It is therefore all the more important to combat it.

A small bribe to make a small change in the outcome or progress of a sporting event is an essential element of a significant web of corruption.  Sex slavery, human trafficking, illegal drugs—all these areas produce revenue that organized crime must explain as legal so they don’t get caught.  Match-fixing provides them a way to launder their money through the gambling markets, and reinvest it in their other, life-destroying activities.

RKN Global on Corporate Corruption: The Role of the Individual

The investigative reporting that exposed the alleged widespread corruption scheme perpetrated by the private, Monaco-based firm Unaoil was based on a trove of emails that had been obtained by reporters.  The emails revealed a scheme by which Unaoil performed its function as a middleman between multinational corporations and state governments of oil producing countries by bribing government officials and officers of oil companies in those countries.

This past week, a former employee of Unaoil has come forward to detail how he personally participated in one such bribe in Libya.

RKN Global’s founder, Ronald K. Noble, stresses that every corrupt or criminal scheme rests on the actions of individuals.  Even a large and wide-reaching scheme of bribery or corruption is often built upon numerous, small corrupt transactions and bribes.

The former Unaoil employee underscores this phenomenon with his reports.  The former executive, Lindsey Mitchell, is cooperating with agents from the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation and the U.K.’s Serious Fraud Office.

Before he began working for Unaoil in 2009, Mitchell had been CEO of Western Energy Services Corp, a public Canadian energy company.   Shortly after he came onboard with Unaoil, he was asked to unduly influence Libyan officials under the regime of Moammar Gaddafi in order to get them to approve contracts for Unaoil’s customers.

One of those officials told Mitchell that he and other officials could help Unaoil’s customers get contracts.  He provided Mitchell with secret tender documents relating to multi-million dollar government contracts.  Mitchell relayed to his bosses at Unaoil that the official would want to get paid, and he was provided with an envelope to provide the officials containing between fifteen and twenty thousand US dollars.  Around midnight, he went to the official’s home to deliver the bribe.

Mitchell claims that while he was familiar with other instances of corruption and bribery, that incident was the only one where he personally delivered the bribe.

He resigned a few days later, having suffered from feelings of guilt for his participation in the corruption.

Ronald K. Noble and RKN Global recommend that employees that find themselves in an organization with a culture of corruption take efforts to resist the temptation to follow the crowd, and avail themselves of their company’s ethics hotline, or if necessary, the authorities.  One small compromise with corruption often leads to progressively larger moral and legal violations.

Lindsay Mitchell’s story illustrates how easy it is for an otherwise upstanding individual to get pulled into a company’s culture of corruption and bribery. Employees everywhere should take note, so they do not surrender their integrity to corruption by another’s greed.

RKN Global on Corruption in Business: The Power of the Bribe

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Corruption is a plague that affects all societies in their various sectors, from the political to the corporate, from the individual to the public, from arts to entertainment.  Oftentimes, corrupt behavior can continue unabated for years, generating tremendous windfalls for its perpetrators, even as they enjoy a reputation of integrity.

RKN Global’s founder Ronald K. Noble, notes that part of corruption’s danger is that its allure can affect anyone, given the right conditions.  A corporate culture of corruption makes further corruption even more likely.

The case of Unaoil is illustrative of the great reach of corruption in even one company.  Unaoil is a Monaco-based company that is privately owned by the well-known Ahsani family.  The company’s business is to help Western oil companies get contracts in oil-producing countries in the Middle East.  It does so by serving as a middle man, a bridge between Middle-Eastern oil and Western companies which ostensibly “integrate[s] Western technology with local capability,” according to Chariman Ata Ahsani.

However, Australian media broke a story that reveals an allegedly different way that Unaoil gets contracts for its clients: bribery.

According to the news reports, Unaoil convinced its customers that its mediation was necessary to do business overseas. It would then bribe officials in the oil countries in order to get contracts for those customers.

For example, Unaoil allegedly gave bribes of more than $25 million to various Iraqi officials between 2004 and 2012.  This included prominent politicians such as Iraq’s education minister and former Deputy Prime Minister and its Oil Minister, as well as Iraqi oil officials.  One oil official, Oday al-Quraishi, received, in addition to a number of larger bribes, a payment of $6,000 each month which included five thousand dollars for him and one thousand for him to distribute as bribes to others.

Customers who used Unaoil for its middleman services included Rolls-Royce, Samsung, Halliburton, Honeywell and KBR.  While not all of the companies were aware of the bribes and corruption practiced by Unaoil, some allegedly were.

RKN Global’s founder, Ronald Noble, emphasizes that corruption is not a victimless crime that smooths the way for doing business. It tilts the playing field against companies that can provide the best services in favor of those who are helped by corrupt means.  Among other harms, this decreases efficiency, diverts money and profits from companies that should rightfully earn it, and hurts the public in the countries whose officials have been bribed and who therefore do not act in the public interest, but in their own.

The Unaoil saga demonstrates the incredible power of corruption to spread, from an individual company to an entire industry around the world.

Corruption in Law Enforcement

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Ronald K. Noble, founder, RKN Global

Corruption in government, especially in law enforcement, engenders a high level of cynicism in the general public, to the extent that at times police and other authorities are always suspect and abusive of their power in the popular mind.  The anger towards police at some Black Lives Matter protests in the United States, for example, is partially the natural result of seeing abuse of black men by police continue unabated.  Nevertheless, the vast majority of law enforcement officers—in the U.S. and in most countries of the world—are honest, hard-working, and dedicated.  The public owes them a debt of gratitude.

I served as the head of numerous national U.S. law enforcement agencies as Under Secretary for Enforcement of the U.S. Treasury Department, and led INTERPOL, the world’s largest international police organization, for 14 years as Secretary General.  I am aware of the high quality and professionalism of most law enforcement officers.  Nevertheless, I am also aware that corruption affects law enforcement as well.

Sometimes even those who are revered by the community and their peers can fall prey to the lure of corruption. Damacio Diaz was a police officer in Bakersfield, California, with almost two decades of experience behind him.  In early 2015, he achieved a level of public prominence and accolade after his younger self was portrayed in the Disney movie “McFarland, USA,” and his ultimate career as a distinguished police officer was portrayed in the movie credits as part of the positive results of the story told in the movie.

In 2012, however, Diaz accepted a $1,000 bribe from a drug informant, and began a slippery slide into corruption and criminality, accepting more than $5,000 from the drug dealer in bribes each year.  Soon, he and his partner were robbing drug dealers and reselling the methamphetamine that they sold to others.  Diaz even tipped off his drug dealer informant of a Federal wiretap that had captured some of his conversations.

The effects of Diaz’ transformation from cop to criminal had a wide-reaching effect.   The public suffered at the loss of one of its heroes and the revelation that it could not really trust those who represented the law.  The public and law enforcement suffered even more, as criminal cases involving Diaz and his partner, including individuals serving sentences in 64 different convictions, may be reopened, dismissed, or overturned.  People undoubtedly used the methamphetamine that Diaz sold—instead of becoming part of the solution, his corruption led him to become part of the problem, harming the public and hurting people.

It is essential to implement systemic safeguards in law enforcement agencies, as well as in other government agencies where power can lead to corruption. These safeguards should include checks and balances, regular comprehensive review of activities, and continuing education that might alert officers like the once-honest Diaz about how criminals might target them with bribes and favors.  With a comprehensive anti-corruption plan in place, those officers who might give in to corruption might be saved and remain on the right side of the law, for their sake and for ours.

RKN Global on National Cyber Security Awareness Month and the Range of Cybercrime

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October is National Cyber Security Awareness Month, established in a joint effort by industry and the U.S. government to raise the profile of the dangers of the online world and awareness of ways to protect ourselves, our families, and our businesses. While a great deal of our previous focus has been on identity theft and identity fraud, it is important to emphasize the wide range of cybercrime.

RKN Global’s Ronald K. Noble has seen the devastating harm of cybercrime and urges heightened awareness and cooperation by the public and by authorities to combat it and its effects.

Other areas of cybercrime include Cyber-stalking, Revenge Porn, Online Bullying, Child Sexual Abuse, and Online Radicalization and Terror Recruitment.

Cyber-stalking is a form of abuse, often directed at a former domestic partner, involving different modes of electronic communication.  Email, text messages, messaging apps, and social media are used by perpetrators to harass, threaten and intimidate their victims.  Cyber-stalking can be a terrifying crime that destroys the victim’s life and well-being, and even leads to threats and bodily harm in the real world.

Revenge porn is the posting of pornographic images of an adult in order to harass him or her.

Online bullying, or cyberbullying, is bullying using technology to harass, humiliate, degrade and threaten another.  Like cyber-stalking, it can use the full range of electronic communication.  It multiplies the devastating effects of in-person bullying because of the public nature of the attacks online, because it can happen anywhere and anytime, and because it can be done anonymously.  Cyberbullying can have egregious consequences for victims.

Child sexual abuse includes the trafficking in child porn as well as the luring of children into sexual encounters with adults.  The internet enables and thus encourages the proliferation of child porn, and provides opportunities for victimizers to hunt for and groom their victims online.

Online radicalization is an important tool for jihadists, white supremacists and other holders of radical, violent ideologies to expand their reach and convince others to join their ranks.  News reports over the past years have abounded about citizens of various countries becoming radicalized online and traveling to Iraq and Syria to fight for ISIS and other terror groups.

Ronald K. Noble and RKN Global underscore the importance of vigilance by children and by adults in all walks of life in order to avoid and prevent the harm of cybercrime.

In upcoming columns, we will focus on some of the individual areas of cybercrime and look at specific ways to stay safe.

RKN Global on Fake IDs: Sophisticated Counterfeiters Require a Sophisticated Response

The United States 9/11 Commission Report alerted the world to the truth that “for terrorists, travel documents are as important as weapons.”  The same holds true for criminals of all types:  The ability to move and cross borders without being flagged or identified is extremely important for criminal enterprises.   It is therefore no surprise that fake identity documents, including fake passports, are common.

A lot of attention has been focused on the value of many European passports because these passports can be used to gain free and unfettered access to the many European countries that are parties to the Schengen agreement.

Ronald K. Noble, RKN Global founder, has called attention to the danger that the Schengen open-border arrangement poses to the people of Europe, unless a uniformly secure protocol is established at all of the borders and access points to the region.

Yet criminals and terrorists use counterfeit or fraudulently altered passports from other countries as well. The arrest this week of a 22-year-old in Washington State in the United States for possession of counterfeit passport cards shows that any country’s documents can be targeted by criminals.

Officers arrested the suspect after receiving a call reporting that he was trying to purchase a cell phone under a fake name.  The officers found on the suspect seven high quality fake U.S. passport cards with his photo, all of them under different names.  He also had seven ATM cards which matched the names on the fake passport cards.

While reports didn’t indicate why the suspect raised questions in the mind of the store’s employee, the authorities related that the fake passport cards were of a very high quality.  It is likely, then, that something in the suspect’s behavior put the employee on alert.

U.S. passport cards are an alternative to a U.S. passport.  They prove U.S. citizenship and identity, and can be used to re-enter the U.S. from Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean and Bermuda.

RKN Global and Ronald K. Noble note the utility of a passport card in furtherance of smuggling operations or other criminal activity across the borders with Canada or Mexico.

The sophistication necessary to produce realistic looking United States passport cards is very high, which indicates that these cards were intended for high-stakes criminal use.  The cellphone retailer in this case is to be commended for his attention and watchfulness to the behavior of his customers.  Authorities are urged to do the same, and to screen identity documents at every border crossing with the most sophisticated technologies available.