The most corrupt cities in the world

Tax havens, bribery and violence among what makes urban corruption.

After the Panama Papers leak cities around the world have seen the return of urban corruption to the public debate.

In the 20th century Chicago had a reputation for urban corruption which began with "King Mike," Michael Cassius McDonald, in 1870s and was followed by Al Capone and Rod Blagojevich decades later. Over the last 40 years the city has had  more than 1,500 public corruption convictions, the highest in all US cities and is considered by a University of Illinois report as the "Capital of Corruption" in America.

But outside the US the windy city faces stiff competition. In Colombia more than 1,300 local mayors have been charged with corruption in the last 8 years. Bribery scandals and tax evasion are also common, and even cartels of dipper companies have been discovered in the last years.

In Spain, the Gürtel scandal, the alleged bribery of politicians and businessmen seeking construction contracts, has 95% of Valencia and Madrid citizens believing corruption is institutionalized. Yet no one has been found guilty.

In Brazil, Rio de Janeiro prosecutors are investigating the possible corruption in Olympic contracts as the investigation of Petrobras multibillion-dollar scheme continues.

But it isn't easy to define of rank the corruption in cities. According to Transparency International 2015 Corruption Perception Index, more than 6 billion people live in countries with serious corruption problems. Their index is made based on expert opinion and measures the perceived levels of public sector corruption worldwide.

They say no country in the world is corrupt-free, in fact 68% of the countries have corruption problems and half the G20 are among them.

Dieter Zinnbauer, research manager at Transparency International, explained to The Guardian, "A high-density and expanding population puts pressure on space, on water, on public services like health and education, and that causes shortages," and when shortages are present, there are big corruption risks.

This is of special concern as over the next 30 years there will be 2.5 billion more people living in cities, especially those where dishonest practices are common. The Index has ranked China, India and Nigeria below 40 point in their 100 point scale, and these states are set to absorb 1 billion new city-dwellers by 2050.

Despite urban corruption's relevance, global anti-corruption efforts have been focusing on countries as a whole. The urban dimension has been left aside and according to Anga Timilsina, programme manager at the UNDP's Global Anti-Corruption Initiative, macro focus won't filter down to the city level.

But there are several initiatives that help identify urban corruption hotspots around the world, like Indian, which allows citizens to upload details of street-level extortion or the list of world most dangerous cities which identifies the extent to which organized crime or violence is widespread.

Guardian's Jack Shenker says to really root out corruption it is necessary to change the global economic infrastructure to avoid public corruption and the flow of money from public treasuries to the shadows.

In Latin America, this problem needs to be tackled from the root, possibly from teaching younger generations the importance of honesty and responsible measures instead of awarding those who commit to bad practices.


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