Statement of Cynthia Gabriel (C4, UNCAC Coalition Vice-Chair) at the UNGASS against Corruption

7 June 2021 –

A recorded statement of Cynthia Gabriel, Founding Director of the Center to Combat Corruption and Cronyism (C4 Center, Malaysia), speaking at the general debate of the first-ever UN General Assembly Special Session against corruption. Cynthia is also the Vice-Chair of the UNCAC Coalition.

The statement was made in the final session of the UNGASS on 4 June 2021. See a summary of this statement and all other speeches of the UNGASS here:

“Mr. President, distinguished delegates.

It is an overwhelming honour to address this first-ever Special Session Against Corruption.

I am from Malaysia, founding director of the Center to Combat Corruption & Cronyism (C4 Center). I also serve as the Vice-Chair of the UNCAC Coalition.

Once a booming economy, Malaysia has been embroiled in the notoriety of multiple corruption schemes, including the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) scandal, that stretched over multiple countries and jurisdictions, involved a slew of agents, commercial banks, and international law firms that helped hide billions of stolen cash in offshore jurisdictions using shell companies to steal money for private and political gain.

Whistleblowers, investigative journalists and anti-corruption activists played a central role in exposing and calling out corruption at the highest levels, and yet my colleagues and I were repeatedly intimidated, attacked and arrested by the authorities. We were persecuted simply because we followed the money trail, spoke up, published articles and mobilized the public to demand answers.

We overcame the fear, the reprisals and retribution. We managed to score important victories: the former Prime Minister and his cohorts in the 1MDB have been charged and are on trial. In too many grand corruption cases around the world, powerful individuals, and many in the business of facilitating corruption, continue to enjoy impunity.

The devastating compromise of national institutions by the executive power, the corruption involved in the financing of political parties, the secret negotiations over asset recovery, the gaping holes between domestic jurisdictions, intelligence sharing, and pitiable commitments to international cooperation, have left perpetrators ample room to run, and to hide from criminal action, pointing to a colossal failure in an international framework to tackle impunity and address cross transnational corruption.

While we are disappointed that there was no consensus among all Member States to use this UNGASS to agree on measures
that would have resulted in substantive progress in
strengthening international cooperation.

We call on all Member States to…

  • Introduce public registries of beneficial company owners – corrupt individuals cannot hide behind secret shell companies;
  • Guarantee full protection of whistleblowers, civil society and journalists;
  • Ensure that oversight bodies and the judiciary are adequately resourced and independent – to act without undue political interference;
  • To mandate the publication of declarations of assets, elected officials – and detect conflicts of interest;
  • To increase transparency over efforts to recover and return stolen assets;
  • And to take enforcement action to end impunity of powerful individuals involved in grand corruption.

We ask you to go beyond the lowest common denominator in your efforts – and to make this political declaration a success. And we ask you to include us civil society as partners in your efforts.

We stand ready to support these efforts and to develop solutions to further strengthen the international anti-corruption framework. We need to ensure, that grand corruption cases such as the 1MDB will no longer occur or go unpunished, not in Malaysia, not anywhere.

I thank you for this opportunity.”