Corruption crosses borders and anti-corruption efforts require
On April 29, 2016, the Supreme Court of Canada released its much
anticipated decision in World Bank Group v.
Wallace.1 The decision highlights that corruption
crosses borders and that anti-corruption efforts benefit from a
coordinated approach by law enforcement and non-governmental
Corruption is a significant obstacle
to international development. It undermines confidence in public
institutions, diverts funds from those who are in great need of
financial support, and violates business integrity. Corruption
often transcends borders. In order to tackle this global problem,
worldwide cooperation is needed. When international financial
organizations, such as the appellant World Bank Group, share
information gathered from informants across the world with the law
enforcement agencies of member states, they help achieve what
neither could do on their own.2
Information shared by World Bank Group with RCMP did not result
in loss of group's immunity
The central issue was whether immunity was lost by the Integrity
Vice Presidency ("INT"), the independent fraud
investigation unit of the World Bank, over email tips it received
and an investigative report that it drafted when it shared some of
that information with the RCMP. The RCMP used that information to
obtain wiretap authorizations over individuals who were
subsequently charged under the Corruption of Foreign Public
Officials Act3 with bribing Bangladeshi officials
in connection with the World Bank financed Padma Multipurpose
Bridge project. As a result of federal legislation giving effect to
certain rights conferred on the World Bank Group by its member
states, the INT is endowed with immunities which apply to documents
in its archives, including the email tips and the investigative
report, and its personnel, like INT investigators.
The accused challenged the wiretap authorizations and sought to
subpoena the INT investigators and obtain production of contents
contained in the investigative file. The Court had to grapple with
whether the sharing of information by INT with the RCMP constituted
a waiver of its immunity. The issue was resolved in favour of the
Immunity is integral to the World Bank Group's
A contrary result would render it difficult, if not impossible,
for the INT to collaborate with national law enforcement agencies
in respect of the breach of national laws. If waiver of immunity
resulted every time INT shared information with national law
enforcement agencies, there might be a chilling effect on INTs
willingness to aid in the prosecution of corruption related
offences. According to the Court, such an effect would be harmful
since the World Bank Group, and other multilateral banks, are
"well placed to investigate corruption and to serve at the
frontlines of international anti-corruption
The effectiveness of anti-corruption efforts is multiplied when
there is collaboration between multilateral institutions on the
frontlines and national law enforcement agencies. Entities which
are subject to sanction proceedings under the jurisdiction of the
World Bank Group should be aware that information shared between
the collaborating parties will not be subject to production in
proceedings brought by the Crown.
1 2016 SCC 15 [World Bank Group].
2 World Bank Group at para. 1.
3 S.C. 1998, c. 34.
4 World Bank Group at para. 94.
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