NEW YORK (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Global anti-corruption campaigners at Transparency International elected Peruvian lawyer José Ugaz as its new head on Sunday marking a shift from quiet diplomacy in combating fraud and bribery toward more grassroots activism.
Ugaz, best known for leading the investigation against former Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori for corruption and human rights abuses, beat the former head of the World Trade Organization Pascal Lamy by 75 to 49 votes, the advocacy group said.
Ugaz, 55, who served as special prosecutor in a string of high profile corruption cases in his home country, will replace Canadian Huguette Labelle, a former Canadian civil servant who led Transparency International (TI) for nine years.
Ugaz said in a statement that he wants to see much more aggressive action in not only holding to account those who enrich themselves while impoverishing their countries, but also in addressing the mechanisms that allow it.
"We must address the way the corrupt are getting away with it, unmasking them, drawing attention to corrupt schemes such as the abuse of offshore companies, impeding their enjoyment of ill-gotten gains traveling freely and leading a life of luxury while the poor have to pay their bills,” he said.
A former head of TI's Peruvian chapter, Ugaz represents a younger generation that passionately embraced the organization's relatively recent shift toward a more activist approach that calls for zero impunity for those who bend the law and escape punishment.
He has stellar credentials. From 2000 to 2002, Ugaz's office investigated 1,500 government officials and associates of Fujimori, including Vladimiro Montesinos, the former head of the country’s intelligence services, and recovered $75 million in stolen assets, TI said.
Lamy, in contrast, was seen as a candidate of continuity, someone who could wield influence discreetly in the corridors of power drawing on his years as an European diplomat and in leading global trade talks.
Underlining the shift in leadership Elena Panfilova, known as a fearless campaigner for political rights and holding the powerful to account as head of the Russian chapter, was elected vice chair.
Founded in 1993 by Peter Eigen, a German lawyer who also worked for the World Bank, to promote transparency and tackle corruption at all levels and across all sectors of society, TI now has more than 100 national chapters worldwide.
Its annual Corruption Perceptions Index is widely regarded as the most reliable indicator of corruption at the national level.
At its annual meeting, Berlin-based TI also passed a resolution calling on the international football federation FIFA to publish its internal report on whether corruption was involved in awarding the 2018 World Cup to Russia and to Qatar in 2020.
An ethics judge studying the report on the turbulent bidding process said last Friday that excerpts may be released but for legal reasons FIFA would withhold the complete findings.
Suspicions of bribery have long hung over decisions by the football association.
Reporting by Maria Caspani, Editing by Stella Dawson