The newly published Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index (CPI 2020) has ranked 180 countries and territories by their perceived levels of public sector corruption. This index uses a scale of 0 to 100, where 0 is highly corrupt and 100 is very clean. CPI 2020 identified that despite progress, most countries still struggle to stop corruption effectively – more than 2/3 of countries score below 50 on CPI, with an average score of just 43. That proves the need to implement more stringent anti-bribery anti-corruption measures worldwide.

In this article, which was originally published on ABAC® Center’s of Excellence website, we will look at how the Asia Pacific, the Middle East and Pakistan scored in the CPI 2020 and discuss solutions to tackle bribery in these regions.

Asia Pacific

Transparency International identified that with an average score of 45, the Asia Pacific region is still struggling to combat corruption despite continuous efforts. Region’s top leader New Zealand (88) is followed by Singapore (85), Australia (77) and Hong Kong (77). Conversely, Cambodia (21), Afghanistan (19) and North Korea (18) ranked lowest in the region. Malaysia, the country which introduced more stringent measures to fight bribery and corruption, proves that it takes time to see improvements. The country has moved down to 51 points compared to 53 points in 2019. Accordingly, the ranking also moved down to 57 in comparison with 51 in 2019. “Although a drop in the score appears statistically insignificant, the government must be cognizant that our rank falling 6 steps means that compared to other countries we are not improving as well as other countries in our efforts to fight corruption” – said Transparency International Malaysia in a statement. TI-M added: “The Government after coming into power in early 2020 committed to continue with the agenda to fight corruption and among them were to gazette the enforcement date of 1 June 2020 for the Corporate Liability and continue with the National Anti-Corruption Plan (NACP) initiated by the previous Government which is commendable. The NACP (National Anti-Corruption Plan) is a comprehensive plan but the government must ensure the implementation is effective and the Chief Secretary to the government should be empowered to lead the implementation and be made accountable”.

In our published whitepaper “South Asia grapples with anti-bribery compliance”, which overviews anti-bribery, anti-corruption and ISO 37001 solutions in Malaysia and entire in South Asia, we wrote that South Asia has a troubled record when it comes to preventing bribery and corruption, as well as enforcing compliance. Recent cases and statistics show that the problem persists in most countries in the region. Both government officials and private sector business leaders are struggling to adopt policies, control methods and best practices to help reduce bribery and corruption on their watch. High profile cases such as the 1MDB scandal in Malaysia and, more recently, the alleged Meikarta township case in Indonesia underscore this point. The investigations that were triggered by these cases demonstrate, however, that regulators are serious about addressing the threat of bribery and corruption as more than just a legal issue, but as a societal one, as well. In response, organizations that are committed to being in compliance are adopting the ISO 37001 – Anti-Bribery Management Systems standard as a comprehensive approach to mitigating risk and demonstrating ‘adequate procedures’ taken to prevent bribery and corruption.”


Middle East

Transparency International identified that with an average score of 39, the Middle East and North Africa region is still perceived as highly corrupt, with little progress made towards controlling corruption. Even though the United Arab Emirates (71) and Qatar (63) are best performing in the region, UAE is still appearing in headlines with bribery and corruption scandals.

In the article “CPI 2020: Trouble in the top 25 countries” wrote: “The United Arab Emirates has been heavily criticised by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) for its inadequate anti-money laundering framework. The country’s chaotic approach to registering companies makes it incredibly difficult for law enforcement to detect who is behind a suspicious company when thirty-nine different registries operate across the seven Emirates.

The UAE’s booming construction and real estate sector accounts for a fifth of the Emirates’ GDP, but remains vulnerable to money laundering because of complex and opaque ownership structures”.

Recently CRI® Group was featured in Financier Worldwide’s InDepth Feature: Anti-Money Laundering 2021 publication and shared the view about the unfortunate situation of money laundering in this region: “When it comes to money laundering, a recent report from Carnegie Endowment found that there is a steady stream of illicit funds from corruption and crime flowing into the UAE. This should be alarming to organisations and regulators alike. The perpetrators take advantage of ‘free trade zones’ and often the money is funnelled through real estate deals, especially in luxurious properties in Dubai, for instance. This might be facilitated by foreign mobsters, gold smugglers, and even warlords. These are high-level criminal operations that can pose a risk to any legitimate organisation operating in the UAE and the Middle East as a whole”. In this edition, CRI® Group’s CEO Zafar Anjum and ABAC®’s Scheme Manager Huma Khalid talked about the Anti-Money Laundering solutions and financial crime impact on businesses not only in UAE but across the globe: “Money laundering still represents a gap in enforcement, and organisations should not wait for government action to put their own AML frameworks in place. Like many countries around the world, the UAE is experiencing an uptick of fraud and financial crimes during the COVID-19 pandemic”. Read the full interview here.


As published in the press release, Pakistan’s CPI 2020 score “has lowered to 31/100 from 32/100 in 2019 and rank to 124/180 from 120/180 in 2019. This is despite NAB’s extraordinary efforts who claims to have recovered Rs363 billion in the last two years, and Public Accounts Committee claims to have recovered Rs. 300 billion over the previous two years”.

TI Pakistan recently reported that “A total of 95 corrupt persons were convicted and fined worth billion of rupees by various accountability courts during the last three years due to the vigorous persuasion of National Accountability Bureau, Rawalpindi“. The comment was made by the Director General NAB, Irfan Naeem Mangi Monday. These efforts, of course, plays a significant role in fighting bribery and corruption, however, Pakistan is still appearing in the headlines. Recently, Transparency International Pakistan has found the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) involved in prima facia violating procurement rules for IT-based solutions and causing Rs13.5 billion losses to exchequer.

As the expert in AML and risk management solutions, CRI® Group was interviewed in the Annual Review (2018): Pakistan Corporate Fraud & Corruption, published by Financier Worldwide Magazine and highlighted that Corporate fraud and corruption in Pakistan are widespread (Rose-Ackerman, 1997, p. 4), particularly in the government and police forces. There is a need to reform accountability and anti-corruption policies in Pakistan. 

Rising fraud risks have driven companies to establish the right steps to prevent fraud and corruption from surfacing. Following through with a focused trajectory ultimately also ensures failsafe protections are put in place, which will guard against scandals or negative publicity, while minimizing risk exposure. There is quite a notable empirical rise in the frequency of companies conducting background screenings to nip corruption in the bud. Though checks can vary in nature, enforcing internal controls by implementing ISO strategies can bring pivotal change to a company’s strategy. Risk management is an essential part of minimizing the costs that can arise in the long term due to losses and falling prey to fraudulent practices in the corporate realm. This can be implemented through a resilient management system that has been designed to specifically target any loopholes and any roadblocks, the impact of which can often be greater than anticipated, rattling the company and causing harm that could lead to lawsuits, unanticipated monetary and financial losses and hefty fines imposed by regulatory authorities, from which the company may never recover.


Demonstrating adequate procedures to prevent bribery and corruption 

ISO has developed a standard – ISO 37001:2016 ABMS – to help organisations promote an ethical business culture. “Designed to help your organisation implement an anti-bribery management system (ABMS), and/or enhance the controls you currently have. It helps to reduce the risk of bribery [and corruption] occurring and can demonstrate to your stakeholders that you have put in place internationally recognised good-practice anti-bribery [and anti-corruption] controls”.

“Adequate procedures” is a term made popular through the UK Bribery Act of 2010. It presents the potential of a company avoiding liability for failing to prevent bribery if that organisation can fully demonstrate clear, sound and established policies and procedures that deter individuals (inside and outside of the organisation) from partaking in questionable or corrupt conduct. Transparency International has written a checklist for countering bribery and assessing whether you have adequate procedures in place, do the  “Adequate Procedures” Checklist now, and find out! Provided by our ABAC®, ISO 37001 certifies that your organisation has implemented reasonable and proportionate measures to prevent bribery. These measures involve top-level leadership, training, bribery risk assessment, due diligence adequacy, financial and commercial controls, reporting, audit, and investigation.

Consider ISO 37001:2016 ABMS as one of the invaluable tools of your Third-Party Risk Management Strategy. Combined with due diligencebackground screeningbusiness intelligence and compliance solutions, ISO 37001 certification and training can lift your risk management process and help your business mitigate risks from third-party affiliations, protecting your organisation from liability, brand damage and harm to the business. Learn more about 3PRM™ program as a flexible and responsive tool to the various risk domains that are most important to your business.

ABAC® – aiming for a higher standard

At CRI® Group’s ABAC® Center of Excellence Limited, we are affiliated with leading certification and accreditation bodies around the world. These affiliations and accreditations help demonstrate the high level of experience and knowledge we provide in anti-bribery, risk and compliance management to our clients on a daily basis.

That’s why ABAC® has achieved essential accreditations from the United Kingdom Accreditation Service (UKAS), Emirates International Accreditation Center (EIAC) and membership in the Association of British Certification Bodies (ABCB). ABAC® is also a member of the “Partner in Corporate Governance” programme with the Malaysian Institute of Corporate Governance (MICG) and a Corporate Member of Transparency International Malaysia (TI-M).

ABAC® was established in 2016 by CRI® Group, a global leader in risk, compliance and anti-bribery management systems. ABAC® was launched to provide certification and online training in anti-bribery and anti-corruption risk management and compliance for organisations worldwide. CRI® Group and ABAC® CEO Zafar I. Anjum, CFE, said that ABAC® is proud to be accredited by, and affiliated with, international accreditation bodies. “Our engagement with high-profile bodies like EIAC, ABCB and UKAS demonstrates the effectiveness of our ISO 37001:2016 Anti-Bribery Management System certification and training, along with our ISO 37302, ISO 31000 certifications and other programs,” Anjum said. Visit to find out more about anti-bribery, anti-corruption, risk and compliance management solutions.

CRI® Group invites you to schedule a quick appointment with us to discuss in more detail how conducting due diligence and compliance can help you and your organisation. 

Who is CRI® Group?

Based in London, CRI® Group works with companies across the Americas, Europe, Africa, Middle East and Asia-Pacific as a one-stop international Risk ManagementEmployee Background ScreeningBusiness IntelligenceDue DiligenceCompliance Solutions and other professional Investigative Research solutions provider. We have the largest proprietary network of background-screening analysts and investigators across the Middle East and Asia. Our global presence ensures that no matter how international your operations are we have the network needed to provide you with all you need, wherever you happen to be. CRI® Group also holds BS 102000:2013 and BS 7858:2012 Certifications, is an HRO certified provider and partner with Oracle.

In 2016, CRI® Group launched the Anti-Bribery Anti-Corruption (ABAC®) Center of Excellence – an independent certification body established for ISO 37001:2016 Anti-Bribery Management SystemsISO 37301 Compliance Management Systems and ISO 31000:2018 Risk Management, providing training and certification. ABAC® operates through its global network of certified ethics and compliance professionals, qualified auditors and other certified professionals. As a result, CRI® Group’s global team of certified fraud examiners work as a discreet white-labelled supplier to some of the world’s largest organisations. Contact ABAC® for more on ISO Certification and training.

Meet our CEO

Zafar I. Anjum is Group Chief Executive Officer of CRI® Group (, a global supplier of investigative, forensic accounting, business due to diligence and employee background screening services for some of the world’s leading business organisations. Headquartered in London (with a significant presence throughout the region) and licensed by the Dubai International Financial Centre-DIFC, the Qatar Financial Center – QFC, and the Abu Dhabi Global Market-ADGM, CRI® Group safeguard businesses by establishing the legal compliance, financial viability, and integrity levels of outside partners, suppliers and customers seeking to affiliate with your business. Based in London, CRI® Group maintains offices in UAE, Pakistan, Qatar, Singapore, Malaysia, Brazil, China, Turkey and the USA.