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Uruguay - Corruption

Together with Chile, Uruguay was ranked as the least corrupt country in Latin America in the 2015 edition of Transparency International's Corruption Perception Index.

Uruguay has laws to prevent bribery and other corrupt practices. A law against corruption in the public sector was approved in 1998 and acceptance of a bribe is a felony under Uruguay's penal code. Some high level Uruguayan officials, from the Executive, Parliament and the Judiciary, have been prosecuted for corruption in recent years.

Laws 17,835, 18,494 and 19,355 (passed in 2004, 2009 and 2015, respectively) establish a strong framework against money laundering and terrorism finance and include corruption as a preceding crime. Money laundering is penalized with sentences of up to ten years (and also applies to Uruguayans living abroad). Prosecutions have been gradually increasing since 2005.

The law provides criminal penalties for corruption by officials, and the government generally implemented the law effectively. While officials sometimes engaged in corrupt practices that authorities addressed with appropriate legal action, the country was considered to have a low level of corruption, according to Transparency International.

The law requires income and asset disclosure by appointed and elected officials. Each year the presidentially appointed Transparency and Ethics Board lists the names of government officials expected to file a declaration on its web page and informs the individuals’ organizations of those expected to comply. The incumbent, the judiciary, a special parliamentary committee, or the board may access the information in the declarations (by majority vote of the board). The board may direct an official’s office to retain 50 percent of the employee’s salary until the declaration is presented, and it may publish the names of those who fail to comply in the federal register. While there is a requirement for filing, there is no review of the filings absent an allegation of wrongdoing.

Congress approved a law allowing the cultivation and sale of marijuana in December 2013, making Uruguay the first country to do so, with the aim of wresting the business from criminals. Uruguay exempted marijuana production and sales from taxes in a bid to ensure prices remain low enough to undercut competition from black market pot smuggled in from Paraguay. The law was an initiative of President Jose Mujica, a 78-year-old former leftist guerrilla who acknowledged the approach is an experiment, says he personally hates pot and has never smoked it.

A 47-count indictment was unsealed 27 May 2015 in US federal court in Brooklyn, New York, charging 14 defendants with racketeering, wire fraud and money laundering conspiracies, among other offenses, in connection with the defendants’ participation in a 24-year scheme to enrich themselves through the corruption of international soccer. The defendants charged in the indictment include high-ranking officials of the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA), the organization responsible for the regulation and promotion of soccer worldwide, as well as leading officials of other soccer governing bodies that operate under the FIFA umbrella.

Those indicted included Eugenio Figueredo, current FIFA vice president and executive committee member. From in or about May 2013 to May 2015, FIGUEREDO was a member of FIFA's executive committee and a FIFA vice president. At various times relevant to the Indictment, FIGUEREDO was also a member of multiple FIFA standing committees, including the finance committee and the organizing committee for the World Cup. From in or about April 2013 to August 2014, FIGUEREDO was the Confederacion Sudamericana de Futbol ("CONMEBOL") president; prior to that, he was one of CONMEBOL's vice presidents.

Prior to obtaining his US citizenship in August 2006, FIGUEREDO submitted documentation explaining his mental disability that falsely stated that he had severe dementia. In or about 1997 to 2006, FIGUEREDO was the president of the Asociacion Uruguaya de Futbol, the Uruguayan soccer federation, which was a national member association of FIFA and CONMEBOL.

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