New Zealand's Corruption-Free Image Threatened by Scandals

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By Reissa Su | May 29, 2014 2:27 PM EST

Recent scandals in politics, business and sports may be threatening New Zealand's 8-year record as the world's least corrupt nation by watchdog Transparency International. According to a report by Fox News, some observers think New Zealand may have been complacent in watching  out for shady behaviour due to its sterling record for fairness.

Observers said the biggest blow to New Zealand may be the recent bribery allegations against top cricket players. It was reported last week that former New Zealand cricket team player Lou Vincent was charged with 14 offences for the alleged fixing of English county matches. The England Cricket Board ruled based on its anti-corruption code.

Vincent said in a statement that he "remains accountable for his actions" and has not denied the allegations of game fixing. According to reports, investigations continue on other players involved in unethical conduct including the country's former national Chris Cairns, who has denied all accusations.

In the realm of politics, lawmaker John Banks is currently on trial for allegations of failing to declare donations. Another politician, Maurice Williamson, has resigned from his ministerial obligations after confirming that he contacted police about an investigation into an assault charge of an associate and a party supporter.

Another scandal in the business sector has hit New Zealand with the Serious Fraud Office investigating Zespri, a kiwi fruit exporter, after its subsidiary and distributor in China were both found guilty of smuggling. They are also found to be understating imports and evading millions of dollars in custom duties.

New Zealand's fraud office also reported convictions against directors and officials from eight finance companies that failed after the 2008 global financial crisis.

According to Bill Hodge, a University of Auckland associate professor of law, he blamed partly the country's openness to trade and "sporting ties" with other countries which expose Kiwis to corrupt practices in other countries.

Professor Hodge said it may be time for New Zealand to "wake-up."

Transparency International New Zealand chairperson Suzanne Snively said the scandals might affect New Zealand's reputation and its rankings in the Corruption Perception Index. However, Snively said the systems in place to fight corruption are more important than the scandals. She observed that New Zealand has become proactive by introducing new anti-corruption rules in sports.

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