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February 16, 2024 – Transparency International is to shed light on a critical yet overlooked threat at this year’s Munich Security Conference: the use of ‘strategic corruption’ as a covert geopolitical weapon. 

Our panel, on February 16 at 3.30-4.15pm CET, jointly hosted with the Basel Institute on Governance, will explore how ‘strategic corruption’ is a weapon wielded by states to further geopolitical aims and poses a grave threat to international peace and security. This insidious form of corruption goes beyond traditional corrupt practices like bribery and embezzlement and involves sophisticated schemes designed to destabilise and manipulate states from within. 

Transparency International Defence & Security welcome the focus on corruption high on the agenda at Munich.Corruption is an existential threat to states and societies and a critical barrier to the protection of individuals. It is behind every pressing security issue facing the world today. 

The implications of corruption within defence and security sectors are especially profound. These sectors involve huge amounts of money and high levels of secrecy are particularly susceptible to corruption.  

We are calling for governments to: 

  • Recognise the role of corruption as a consistent threat behind all of the security risks assessed in the Munich Security Index and the Munich Security Report. Acknowledge that corruption deepens all inequalities within and between states, which drive current conflicts and geopolitical tensions. 
  • Address corruption as a security threat by integrating anti-corruption measures as a priority in all defence and security policies and practices. Recognise long-term insecurity and inequalities, driven by corruption, as the consequence of short-term payoffs in defence and security decision-making.  
  • Introduce robust anti-corruption controls for arms transfers, including corruption risk assessment and mitigation,and making sure recipient countries have strong anti-corruption governance. Governments should also actively work on finding and addressing the risks of corruption leading to arms being diverted. 

Make transparency the norm in defence and security, granting access to information as the rule and restricting it on national security grounds as the exception. 



Notes to editors:  

The Corruption panel will take place on February 16, at 3.30-4.15pm CET (GMT +1) 

It will feature President Arévalo from Guatemala, Prime Minister Denkov from Bulgaria, Transparency International Global Vice Chair Ketakandriana (Ke) Rafitoson and US Senator Sheldon Whitehouse. 

It will be live streamed on the MSC website.

February 15, 2024 – As African leaders gather in Addis Ababa for the 2024 African Union (AU) Summit, the urgent agenda of addressing peace and security takes centre stage.

While ensuring the safety of citizens remains the primary obligation of governments, many African countries grapple with persistent conflicts and an alarming recurrence of coups. Internal conflicts, often fuelled by the illicit arms trade and the unlawful exploitation of natural resources, has threatened the stability of several countries on the continent.

Corruption has served as a catalyst for conflicts in Burkina Faso, Sudan, Mali, Nigeria and the Central African Republic, which has poured fuel on the flames of grievances against political leaders and incited violent upheavals.

By eroding public trust and undermining the effectiveness of defence and security institutions, corruption has eroded the rule of law and perpetuated instability. This has led to diminished access to essential services for many and fostered environments conducive to human rights abuses. There is a pressing need to recognise corruption as a security threat in itself and prioritise anti-corruption efforts within security sector reform and governance (SSR/G).

It is imperative that AU members unite in addressing corruption within defence and security sectors as a crucial step toward achieving conflict resolution, peace, stability, and security goals.

Transparency International Defence & Security calls on states to:

  • Recognise corruption in defence as a security threat: Governments must acknowledge the threat of corruption to national security and allocate resources accordingly.
  • Empower civilian oversight: Governments should encourage active citizen participation in oversight to enhance transparency and accountability.
  • Integrate anti-corruption in peace efforts and SSR: Embed anti-corruption measures into conflict resolution, peacebuilding and security sector reform agendas for more resilient societies.

Peace and stability in Africa and around the world cannot be safeguarded without making the efforts to address the insidious threat of corruption proportionate to the threat which it represents.

February 6, 2024 – A successful campaign in Ukraine for the publication of prices paid for non-lethal procurement by the country’s Ministry of Defence highlights how greater transparency can result in significant savings, Transparency International Defence & Security said today.

The Ukrainian Anti-Corruption Action Centre announced officials are now publishing the prices they pay for fuel. The campaigners said since the information had been made public, the Ministry of Defence is paying less than the average wholesale price for gasoline.

Josie Stewart, Head of Transparency International Defence & Security, said:

“This victory for anti-corruption activism illustrates how greater transparency can result in significant savings in procurement and underscores the pivotal role of informed citizens in fortifying integrity in defence and security.

“All too often defence and security matters are deemed beyond the reach of the transparency and accountability that govern other sectors. This case is a reminder that transparency is not just a principle to aspire to, it’s a practical tool that enhances the effectiveness and efficiency of military operations.”

Revelation highlights danger of collusion in arms procurement


February 2, 2024 – Responding to reports that officials in Ukraine had uncovered a mass procurement fraud in the country’s Ministry of Defence, Josie Stewart, Head of Transparency International – Defence & Security, said:

“The confirmation of mass procurement fraud by Ukraine’s Defence Ministry is disheartening and comes at a critical time for a nation grappling with the enduring challenges posed by Russia’s continuing invasion. This revelation poses a significant threat to the safety and security of the Ukrainian people, undermining the effectiveness of the armed forces in their defence efforts.

“We commend the ongoing investigations into this case and the efforts to recover stolen assets, which send a strong signal of Ukraine’s commitment to its continuous and transparent fight against corruption. However, this incident highlights the genuine danger of collusion in arms procurement, with destabilising effects not only on Ukraine’s self-defence but also in neighbouring countries in the Balkans.

“The fight against corruption is an ongoing struggle, and the exposure of such malpractices is a necessary step toward fostering transparency and rebuilding public trust. Transparency International Defence & Security underscores the imperative that, in times of conflict, anti-corruption measures must be central to all defence and security decisions. In Ukraine, corruption in procurement can have life-threatening consequences, compromising military operational capabilities and endangering frontline lives.”


Notes to editors:

Ukraine’s Defence Ministry recently confirmed investigators had uncovered a corruption scheme in the purchase of arms by the country’s military totalling the equivalent of about $40 million.

January 18, 2024 – Transparency International Defence & Security welcomes the seizure of $8.9million that was siphoned off by corrupt Nigerian officials from funds meant to be used to equip the country’s military in its fight against Boko Haram.

The Royal Court in Jersey, a British Crown Dependency, last week ruled that the funds were illicitly obtained by Nigerian officials in 2014.

Instead of being used for legitimate purchases of military equipment, the funds were moved out of Nigeria to a bank account in Jersey. The true source of the funds was obscured using foreign bank accounts and shell companies but the money ultimately benefited family members of Nigeria’s former ruling party.

Nigeria received an ‘E’ in Transparency International Defence & Security’s Government Defence Integrity Index, indicating a very high risk of corruption. Our assessment from 2018/19 showed Nigeria still faces considerable corruption risk across its defence institutions, with extremely limited controls in operations and procurement.


Josie Stewart, Head of Transparency International Defence & Security, said:

“We welcome the Royal Court’s decision to seize these misappropriated funds and begin the process of returning them to the people of Nigeria. This money, rather than supporting the security forces fighting Boko Haram, was diverted to enrich the country’s ruling class.

“This case underscores the pervasive risks of corruption in the defence sector, where the secrecy and complexity inherent in international arms deals, coupled with the large amounts of money at stake, create an environment ripe for abuse of office.

“It is incumbent on the Jersey authorities to return these funds openly and accountably to avoid them being stolen again. The successful return of these assets to the people of Nigeria will not only serve justice but also highlight the critical need for greater transparency in the global arms trade.”


Auwal Ibrahim Musa Rafsanjani, Executive Director of CISLAC/Transparency International Nigeria, added:

“While we wholeheartedly welcome the decision, we are hopeful that when repatriated, the funds will be judiciously utilised in improving the living standards of common Nigerians.

“We find it disturbing that money, rather than supporting the security forces fighting Boko Haram, was diverted to enrich the country’s ruling class.

“We on this note call on Nigerian Government to strengthen the procurement process in the defence and security sector through enhanced transparency and accountability, regular review as well as independent auditing.

“We also call on relevant legislative Committees in the National Assembly and Civil Society to galvanise external oversight of the Defence and Security through regular tracking and scrutiny of budgetary allocation, appropriation, implementation and procurement activities.”

January 17, 2024 – Responding to the escalating violence in Ecuador, Josie Stewart, Head of Transparency International Defence & Security, said:

“Effective civil engagement and open dialogue are the cornerstones for re-establishing peace and stability.

“We emphasise that public trust in defence and security forces hinges on transparency, particularly during times of crisis. It is crucial that the Ecuadorian government maintains transparency and accountability and ensures that its defence and security actions are open to public scrutiny.

“We firmly support the Ecuadorian citizens in their pursuit of a defence and security sector that is not only effective but also operates with transparency and accountability.”

Transparency International highlights key areas for anti-corruption efforts


January 15, 2024 – Following the elections in Taiwan, Ara Marcen Naval, Head of Advocacy at Transparency International Defence & Security, said:

“Following Taiwan’s important election, it’s imperative for the new president and legislature to balance their approach towards external threats with a strong stance against corruption. The country has already taken significant steps to mitigate corruption risk in its defence & security sector, as evidenced by its high score in our Government Defence Integrity Index, but challenges remain in defence contract offsets and the roles of brokers and agents in arms deals.

“These murky areas are especially prone to corruption, which can undermine national security and public trust. We urge the incoming administration to enhance efforts to ensure transparency and integrity, particularly in defence procurement. Strengthening these areas will build on existing progress and ensure that Taiwan’s defence sector not only remains effective and resilient, but also fosters a sense of accountability and credibility within the international community.

“By prioritising transparency and integrity in defence procurement, the incoming administration can fortify Taiwan’s position as a responsible global player. This commitment will not only bolster national security but also contribute to building enduring partnerships, fostering regional stability, and upholding the principles of good governance on the global stage.”


Notes to editors:

The Government Defence Integrity Index (GDI) scores and ranks nearly 90 countries on the quality of institutional controls to manage the risk of corruption in defence and security institutions.

Taiwan achieved an overall rank of B, indicating a low risk of defence & security corruption.

However Taiwan was ranked C, indicating a moderate risk of corruption, on the Index’s ‘procurement’ indicator. 

This assesses the level of safeguards against corruption in arms deals and includes the use of defence contract offsets and the roles of brokers and agents.

Transparency International Defence & Security will be publishing new research on the corruption risk posed by offsets later this year.

December 19, 2023 – Transparency International Defence & Security welcomes the action taken in sanctioning two former Afghan officials for ‘widespread involvement in international corruption’. This move is an important step in acknowledging and addressing the impacts that corrupt practices in the defence and security sectors have on both national and international security.

The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) recently announced that the US Treasury Department had sanctioned two individuals for corruption during 2014 to 2019 that included theft of fuel intended for the prior Afghan government’s security forces.

SIGAR said this theft denied coalition and Afghan forces of a vital resource and only made the Taliban stronger.

This corruption took place at a time when national and international efforts were supposed to be focussed on building the Afghan forces to make them more able to provide effective security. Instead, initiatives to reform and rebuild the security sector took place without the necessary focus on anti-corruption.


Josie Stewart, Director of Transparency International Defence & Security, said:

“These welcome sanctions underscore a stark reality: corruption in the defence sector is not just about theft of resources, but a direct threat to national and global security. Authorities in the United States deserve congratulations for their work in blocking these individuals from accessing the proceeds of their corruption.

“The theft of vital resources like fuel can strengthen adversaries such as the Taliban while simultaneously weakening the security forces tasked with keeping citizens safe.  

“This case should highlight vividly why it’s time for more countries to step up and work towards ending the grave impact of corruption on global peace and security.

“Rather than addressing the issue after it has already had chance to take root, the international community must work urgently on strengthening defence and security institutions against the threat of corruption before its corrosive effects can set in.”


Notes to editors:

This case study by Transparency International Defence & Security highlights how rampant corruption – from seemingly petty offences to grand-scale corruption– affected all levels of the Afghan government during the initial US and subsequent International Security Assistance Force operations in the country.

A 2022 report by the UK’s Independent Commission for Aid Impact into Britain’s £3.5bn aid to Afghanistan between 2000 and 2020 concluded that “channelling funding in such high volumes through weak state institutions distorted the political process and contributed to entrenched corruption.”

Integrity is the cornerstone of peace and security, writes Yi Kang Choo. Amid the delicate security challenges currently facing Taiwan, we visited Taipei to share a roadmap for upholding integrity in military operations and procurement.

Hailed as the ‘integrity experts by Taiwanese media, a Transparency International Defence and Security (TI-DS) delegation led by Head of Advocacy Ara Marcen Naval was recently invited to deliver the keynote speech at the 2023 International Military Integrity Academic Forum in Taiwan. A packed week in Taipei, the capital, saw the team encourage and support countries in the Asia Pacific region to strategically address corruption risks in their national defence and security sectors.

Above: Leading the TI-DS delegation is Ara Marcen Naval, Head of Advocacy (left centre), along with Najla Dowson-Zeidan, Advocacy & Engagement Manager (3rd from the left), Yi Kang Choo, Programme Officer (1st from the left), and Prof. Byung-Ook Choi, Transparency International South Korea (4th from the left).

Corruption represents a critical national security threat in this geo-politically sensitive region

The audience included directors from the Ministry of National Defence Procurement Office, Department of Resource Planning, Division of Defence Strategy and Resources, as well as the Ministry of Justice and the Agency Against Corruption. Companies within the defence industry were invited on the second day of the Forum.

Above: Ara Marcen Naval, Head of Advocacy of TI-DS delivering keynote speech to attendees of the forum

Our delegation was hosted by Po Horng-Huei, Vice Minister of Defence (Policy) of Taiwan. We were joined by the Integrity Defence Committee in Transparency International Korea and members of Transparency International Taiwan.

Regional trends and corruption risks

As shown in our GDI index, while Taiwan generally scores highly on institutional resilience to corruption in defence, key defence sector corruption risks in Taiwan and across the Asia Pacific region reside within military operations. Corruption in operations undermines the power of deterrence.

When defence institutions lack integrity, deterrence strategies lose credibility. When neighbouring countries perceive a nation’s military as corrupt or compromised, they might view deterrence signals as less credible, potentially emboldening them to take more aggressive actions. Given Taiwan’s security ties to the stability of the region, any perception of corruption within Taiwan’s defence sector could potentially be exploited by adversaries seeking to undermine the credibility of its defence and weaken Taiwan’s position in the region. Moreover, such perception of corruption could incentivise aggressive behaviour by others, potentially leading to territorial expansion or military provocations, with the potential to destabilise the entire region.

Defence offsets: the mutual responsibility of defence companies and governments to operate with integrity

Countries across the world are developing and implementing new policies and strategies to strengthen their national defence manufacturing capabilities in response to elevated geo-political conflict, resource competition, and changing alliances.

Rather than focusing on boosting their defence manufacturing through direct grants and contracts with local defence companies, many countries are pursuing defence offsets – a form of industrial cooperation which involves foreign defence company investments in local defence or other economic sectors in exchange for securing arms deals with buying governments. The total value of defence offsets in Asia is expected to reach US$88 billion by 2025.

Countries in Asia and Oceania, both with developed and underdeveloped defence industries, are adopting defence offsets for various purposes. For example, Taiwan seeks to introduce high-tech industries, encouraging foreign investment, promoting exports, and improving industrial structure. Moreover, the facilitating role of industrial cooperation to the remarkable success in the semiconductor industry is widely acknowledged among policy makers in Taiwan.

However, this trend is not without its corruption risks.

Former government officials from across the region have highlighted “how offsets are susceptible to corruption within a sector where bribes can represent nearly twice the contract value of procurements in any other sector.” In India, the government has been investigating at least three corruption cases.

Some defence industry representatives have even cancelled contracts due to corruption concerns in offset related transactions. This form of corruption has hurt countries’ abilities to perform critical military missions, slowed growth in local defence industries, and eroded trust in government integrity.

Against this backdrop, the Transparency International Defence and Security delegation urged companies to publicly acknowledge the corruption risks associated with offset contracting and ensure that all offset partners and projects are subject to enhanced due diligence procedures. Defence companies should be transparent about any involvement in offset projects worldwide. Moreover, government officials and departments dealing with offset projects should enhance their oversight of key risk areas, including the use of wide-ranging multipliers to assess the value of proposed or completed offset projects, and the ability for defence companies to provide cash payments or working capital to any type of local company.


Above: Prof. Byung-Ook Choi, a member of the Integrity Defence Committee in Transparency International Korea speaking on stage, sharing his concerns and recommendations on offset policies to reduce corruption risks.

Another key area of risk within the region is corruption in the arms trade and defence procurement.

Global military expenditure in 2022 was $2.2 trillion – 3.7 per cent more than the previous year. China’s military spending rose last year for the 28th consecutive year, to reach $292 billion. Military spending in Taiwan is also rising, driven by concerns about regional security.

These increases in spending on defence, alongside the scale of corruption risk in the defence sectors of arms exporting and importing countries, brings increased risk of distorted defence spending priorities and military acquisitions, imbalances in the distribution of military capabilities, corruption-enabled arms diversion, and diminished military capability. Corruption in defence procurement can undermine the quality and reliability of military equipment and infrastructure, jeopardising the safety and operational effectiveness of armed forces during potentially critical situations.

To manage these risks, increases in defence spending must be accompanied by corresponding improvements in transparency and defence governance.

Above: Hybrid Regional Meeting between TI-DS with TI Chapter Representatives from Taiwan, South Korea, Malaysia, and Indonesia.

Looking ahead

Our visit to Taiwan exposed us to the dedicated efforts of the Taiwanese government to uphold transparency and integrity standards in their defence and security sectors. However, as is often the case in countries with high military expenditures and national security pressures, it remains possible for the full extent of the risk of corruption, or the perception thereof, to be overlooked. This risk has the potential to significantly impact a nation’s defence readiness and deterrence, Taiwan included.

Therefore, the need for continuous improvement is paramount. Addressing corruption risks within the defence sector is not an ethical obligation; it is a strategic imperative for Taiwan’s security, reputation, and stability. By actively working to eliminate corruption risks, Taiwan can continue to bolster its defence capabilities and contribute to regional stability, whilst at the same time setting an example for other countries in the region and beyond.

Proactive regional cooperation to promote defence integrity

In the margins of the Integrity Forum, we took the opportunity to convene and strengthen our alliances for more robust regional and global advocacy with Transparency International Chapter representatives in the region including South Korea, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Taiwan.

By aligning regional priorities and interests with our chapter colleagues, we eagerly anticipate more countries stepping up as champions against corruption within their national defence sectors, emulating Taiwan’s example and igniting a contagious movement of heightened integrity and security throughout the region. We’ll continue to emphasise that civil society organisations like Transparency International Defence and Security are allies in this ongoing, challenging, and profoundly important struggle to instil integrity in defence and security and create a safer world for all.


Yi Kang Choo is Programme Officer at Transparency International Defence and Security.

Responding to the reported coup in Gabon, Josie Stewart, Director of Transparency International Defence and Security, said:

This is the eighth coup in Central and West Africa in the last three years.

Corruption in the security sector has long fuelled insecurity across the region.

It has been inadequately addressed through security sector reform.

The consequences for the social contract and governance are severe.
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Responding to fresh data from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) demonstrating record global military spending, Transparency International Defence and Security Director, Josie Stewart, said:

New SIPRI data has revealed that the total global military expenditure increased by 3.7 per cent in real terms in 2022, reaching a new high of $2240 billion.

This increase in spending – coupled with our Government Defence Integrity index’s finding that nearly two-thirds of countries face a high to critical risk of corruption in their defence and security sectors – should be cause for concern for governments around the world.

To ensure that military expenditure is contributing to security rather than corruption and abuse, governments should strengthen transparency, accountability, and oversight in the defence sector, providing for adequate scrutiny from lawmakers, auditors, and civil society.

Transparency is the best way for states to ensure that military spending is used effectively to enhance security.
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Out of hours – Weekends; Weekdays (UK 17.30-21.30): +44 (0)79 6456 0340

Negotiations have been taking place in Geneva this month around the control and accountability of private military and security companies (PMSCs). Transparency International Defence and Security’s Ara Marcen Naval contributed to the discussions in Switzerland. Here she delivers a call to action to other civil society organisations.

As an NGO committed to promoting transparency and accountability in the defence and security sector, Transparency International Defence and Security (TI-DS) is deeply concerned about the corruption risks associated with the activities of PMSCs. These groups, while playing a role in enhancing security in some cases, often operate in secrecy, outside standard transparency and accountability structures. This permissive environment creates opportunities for corruption and conflict to thrive, deprives governments and citizens of financial resources, and undermines security and human rights.

I write having participated last week in the discussions of the Open-Ended Intergovernmental Working Group on PMSCs. This fourth session was convened to discuss a new draft of an international instrument to regulate the activities of PMSCs. This is a critical platform for addressing these concerns and others related to companies’ human rights obligations. There are various questions: how to ensure their activities comply with international humanitarian law? Should these companies be allowed to participate directly in hostilities?

The PMSC industry is a rapidly evolving and intrinsically international one, with a well-documented link to global conflict. The lack of regulatory oversight has led to heightened global risks of fraud, corruption, and violence, with little in the way of accountability mechanisms at both the national and international levels, so progress at a global level is key.

Current initiatives to try and regulate the market, such as the Montreux Document and the International Code of Conduct for Private Security Service Providers, are a step in the right direction. However, these initiatives have limited support among states around the world. They do not cover some key military and intelligence services and exclude some important anticorruption measures. TI-DS thinks these initiatives don’t go far enough to address the risks posed. We are hopeful that the efforts of the working group will provide a much-needed stronger set of enforceable standards.

TI-DS welcomes the progress made in the revised draft discussed last week, including references to the UN Convention Against Corruption and the UN Convention against Transnational Organised Crime. These references are essential steps towards policy and legal coherence, aligning efforts to regulate PMSCs with international legal obligations related to corruption and transnational organised crime.

While in Geneva I continued to propose ways that the text of the draft instrument can better incorporate anticorruption standards, including transparency of contracts and beneficial ownership, and through the recognition of corruption-related crimes as well as human rights abuses.

But we are deeply concerned about the overall lack of engagement. The room was almost empty, with many states not attending the discussions and a general lack of civil society actors actively following this critical process – prospective changes that could significantly impact conflict dynamics, international security, human rights and respect for international humanitarian law.

This is the Geneva Paradox. Other similar processes, like those related to business and human rights or others trying to get a grasp of new types of weapons systems, are filling the rooms of the United Nations, with both states and civil society in attendance. We feel that this process – which is attempting to regulate the activities of PMSCs to stop the trend of these corporate actors becoming rogue actors in wars and conflicts around the world – deserves equal attention.

In September, the Human Rights Council will set the agenda for this issue going forward. We hope that more states and civil society organisations join efforts in the coming period to give this issue the critical attention and scrutiny it deserves.