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Monday
Feb262018

Hundreds lose New Zealand drivers licenses in bribery scandal

New Zealand, ranked the least corrupt country in the world, has cancelled hundreds of drivers licenses after an investigation revealed widespread bribery involving driving tests.

Three officials at the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) allegedly took bribes from 350 drivers.

Some licenses were cancelled and other drivers are being retested, a local report said.

Radio New Zealand uncovered details about the scandal by filing an Official Information Act request.

The NZTA officials reportedly worked in the agency's customer service, testing, and data entry departments.

New Zealand ranked as the least corrupt country on TI's latest Corruption Perceptions Index released earlier this month.

Denmark, Finland, Norway, Switzerland, and Singapore were the next cleanest countries.

The NZTA officials allegedly accepted fake overseas licenses and phony driving-course certificates, according to a police investigation.

A whistleblower said officials would accept between $500 and $600 to pass drivers without giving any on-road exam.

Another whistleblower said applicants could buy heavy-vehicle licenses for bribes of $3,000.

The number of applicants submitting Indian licenses increased from 70 to 772 from 2013 to 2015, raising suspicions the Indian licenses might be fakes.

"A briefing note to former Minister of Transport Simon Bridges in 2016 shows there has long been concern about the increasing use of Indian licences to obtain licences in New Zealand," the local report said.

Ken Shirley, who heads a road transport lobby, said: "Corruption has no place in New Zealand and in this case, as well as being unfair to the thousands of people legitimately moving through the license system, it has created an incredibly dangerous situation for other road users."

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Richard L. Cassin is the publisher and editor of the FCPA Blog.