Germany ‘more corrupt than thought’

Though a new survey of perceptions of corruption in countries around the world rates Germany rather well – 14th out of 183 countries – anti-graft group Transparency International says country still has much work to do.

Germany 'more corrupt than thought'
Photo: DPA

The annual survey by the Berlin-based non-governmental organization placed Germany above well-developed countries like the United States, Austria and Belgium.

But Christian Humborg, the managing director of Transparency’s Germany branch, pointed out that the country’s position hadn’t improved much in recent years. In 2010, Germany was ranked 15th and the year before was ranked 14th in the index. It has consistently ranked in the middle of the pack among European countries and well below Canada and Singapore.

“There’s still a lot of work to be done in Germany,” Humborg told The Local.

Humborg said Germany most urgently needs to address widespread perceptions that political parties and politicians place themselves open to corruption.

Under German law, companies can sponsor political parties and even set up stands at party events, he said. Though party financing scandals in recent years have resulted in more regulation and greater transparency, the company sponsorships can create the perception that companies can curry favour with politicians, he said.

“There hasn’t been anything happened for the last years to look at this issue,” he complained.

Humborg also said that Germany should immediately ratify its accession to the United Nations Convention Against Corruption, which obliges states to put in place specific and detailed safeguards against corruption.

Although Germany has provisionally signed the convention, the fact that it has not yet ratified – meaning it is not legally bound by its provisions – puts it in dubious company with countries like Saudi Arabia, Syria and North Korea. In Europe the Czech Republic is the only other country other country that has not yet ratified the convention.

Humborg said Bundestag members are worried that if the treaty is ratified there could be more anti-bribery investigations launched against them, leading to damaged reputations if charges are later proven false.

“It seems other countries haven’t had this problem, so those worries don’t make a lot of sense,” Humborg said.

Moises Mendoza

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Driver in Bavaria gets €5,000 fine for giving the finger to speed camera

A driver in Passau has been hit with a €5,000 fine because he was caught by traffic police giving the middle finger.

Driver in Bavaria gets €5,000 fine for giving the finger to speed camera

The district court of Passau sentenced the 53-year-old motorist to the fine after he was caught making the rude gesture in the direction of the speedometer last August on the A3 near the Donautal Ost service area, reported German media. 

The man was not caught speeding, however. According to traffic police who were in the speed camera vehicle at the time, another driver who had overtaken the 53-year-old was over the speed limit. 

When analysing the photo, the officers discovered the slower driver’s middle finger gesture and filed a criminal complaint.

The driver initially filed an objection against a penalty order, and the case dragged on for several months. However, he then accepted the complaint. He was sentenced to 50 ‘unit fines’ of €100 on two counts of insulting behaviour, amounting to €5,000.

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In a letter to police, the man said he regretted the incident and apologised. 

Police said it was “not a petty offence”, and that the sentence could have been “even more drastic”.

People who give insults while driving can face a prison sentences of up to a year.

“Depending on the nature and manner of the incident or in the case of persons with a previous conviction, even a custodial sentence without parole may be considered for an insult,” police in Passau said. 

What does the law say?

Showing the middle finger to another road user in road traffic is an offence in Germany under Section 185 of the Criminal Code (StGB). It’s punishable by a prison sentence of up to one year or a fine.

People can file a complaint if someone shows them the middle finger in road traffic, but it usually only has a chance of success if witnesses can prove that it happened.

As well as the middle finger, it can also be an offence to verbally insult someone. 

READ ALSO: The German road signs that confuse foreigners