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Corruption Challenges Index 2019 Corruption danger spots for business in 2019

The world’s most and least challenging places for foreign investors in relation to corruption levels

Welcome to the 2019 edition of Risk Advisory's Corruption Challenges Index. As with the 2017 and 2018 surveys, these findings are based on our experience of carrying out in-depth investigations and due diligence around the world during the previous year. Our findings are based on many factors such as levels of FCPA enforcement action and local industry risks, as well as how information flows affect a company's ability to understand who exactly it's dealing with.

Businesses need to be aware of which countries have a significant risk of corruption. The Corruption Challenges Index is an essential guide for businesses conducting work globally, ensuring awareness of where corruption challenges lie and why you should conduct thorough due diligence before investing in such a country.

Key features:

  • Three interactive maps - revealing the highest and lowest threats posed (corruption threat), the availability of information (opacity) and the overall challenge of doing business in each country (Corruption Challenge Index score)
  • Top 10 league tables - indicating the most and least challenging countries to carry out business
  • Top 3 sectors - exposed to corruption in each region and globally
  • Regional viewpoints - interpretation from our global team of experts, highlighting trends and themes

Key Findings

  • Construction and development, infrastructure, and oil and gas emerge as the most challenging industry sectors from a corruption point of view globally
  • Turkmenistan remains the country where businesses face the biggest corruption challenges, followed by Libya and then Somalia
  • Europe generally performs well in the Index and dominates the list of least challenging countries. It also has the lowest average corruption challenge score
  • Africa generally performs poorly in the Index with the highest average corruption challenge score. It also claims six out of ten countries where the threat levels are highest for unstable regimes and the likelihood of encountering corruption
  • The ability to source reliable data is at its worst in Turkmenistan, Libya and Somalia - marked as Opacity scores on the maps.
Corruption Challenges Index 2019 Reveal 1

Global Key Findings

It remains the case, however, that the laws against corrupt activity are only as strong as the institutions and individuals whose job it is to enforce them.

Chris Rowley, Head of Business Intelligence and Investigations
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Corruption Challenges Index 2019 Reveal 2


Targeted intelligence provides a crucial nexus between business, politics, governance and security

Hannah Gilkes, Head of Business Intelligence Africa
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Corruption Challenges Index 2019 Reveal 3

North America

The US and Canada remain among the ‘safest’ jurisdictions in our index from an anti-corruption perspective. That said, petty corruption remains a concern for our clients in both countries, especially in the real estate and construction industries.

Tom Smith, Head of Business Intelligence North America
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Corruption Challenges Index 2019 Reveal 4

Latin America

The incidence of corruption in Latin America has not lessened in the last year. The fate of countries like Venezuela continue to be dictated by widespread corruption and cronyism.

Eric Wheeler, Head of Business Intelligence Latin America
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Corruption Challenges Index 2019 Reveal 5


In Asia Pacific North Korea and Laos feature in the global top ten most corrupt countries, but the most important growth markets in the region for foreign investors continue to present pervasive corruption risks.

In South Asia, India is a case of extremes in our survey. The country’s relatively high standards of corporate disclosures make it easier to acquire reliable information on potential business partners than in many first-world countries. However, despite prime minister Modi’s focus on anti-corruption, bribery remains entrenched in many sectors, particularly, as our work has shown in the past year, in real estate, infrastructure and defence. In Bangladesh the re-election of Sheikh Hasina to her third term last December, has not inspired confidence about meaningful anti-corruption reform, although economic growth does at least remain strong. By contrast the Maldives, where the Solih administration came to power last December, has an opportunity to restore confidence among international investors by cleaning up the licensing process for leasing private islands.

In Southeast Asia, Malaysia’s place in our corruption table has improved from last year with the defeat of the 1MDB scandal-plagued Najib Razak’s administration. While prime minister Mahathir Mohamad’s first term in office (1981-2003) also featured high levels of corruption, perhaps at the age of 93 he has less to lose now by taking more concrete action to clean up the bureaucracy. In Vietnam, where we have seen a marked increase in demand for our services from foreign investors in the past 12 months, the opaque information environment and corruption that exists in obtaining licences make it one of the most challenging countries in which to invest. In Indonesia corruption is not (currently anyway) the focus of the upcoming presidential elections in April. This reflects in some ways Jokowi’s efforts to take certain meaningful steps to improve accountability in the country, although he too has been held back by his political allies in taking a harder line on graft-busting, and our work suggests that corruption continues to deter some foreign investors from investing.

In Northeast Asia, China is a shade darker this year on our corruption map, reflecting the increasing difficulty of gathering reliable information on companies, a challenge we also highlighted last year. The common use of proxies in ownership structures, whether it be a family’s nanny - as we saw in one case recently, makes identifying the real owners behind businesses much more time-consuming. On a more positive note, the government continues to prioritise the prosecution of corruption. In South Korea, the jailing of two former presidents in 2018 for accepting bribes from prominent chaebols underscores the risks of partnering even with the best known international companies in that market.

Corruption Challenges Index 2019 Reveal 6


With the first successful prosecution of a company for failure to prevent bribery under section 7 of the UK Bribery Act 2010, success in changing prevailing attitudes towards corruption in Europe remains in evidence this year.

Ariana Issa, Head of Business Intelligence Europe
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Corruption Challenges Index 2019 Reveal 7

Middle East & North Africa

Despite major anti-corruption campaigns across the Middle East and North Africa, most challenges facing the region remain unaddressed.

Hannah Poppy, Head of Business Intelligence Middle East & North Africa
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Corruption Challenges Index 2019 Reveal 8

Russia, Eastern Europe & Eurasia

In Russia positive developments in regulation and enforcement have caught our attention

Dmitry Sachkov, Head of Business Intelligence, Russia, Eastern Europe & Eurasia
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The Corruption Challenges Index is compiled by due diligence experts from Risk Advisory’s seven regional business intelligence teams, with country risk scoring from our political and security risk focused Intelligence & Analysis team.

The index assesses corruption threat, regime instability and accessibility of information in 187 countries to arrive at a ‘Corruption Challenge’ score, and a resulting ‘Most Challenging Jurisdiction’ ranking.

In countries where the threat of corruption is elevated, integrity due diligence performs an essential risk management function. But when information is scarce or unreliable, due diligence requires specialist knowledge and research skills to undertake. The most challenging countries are those where threat is high and due diligence difficult. The index is designed to quantify this nexus.

Our experts were asked to grade each country on the likelihood of two scenarios; 1) foreign investors encountering corruption in seeking a significant government contract, licence or permit, and 2) a business operating locally enduring small scale official corruption to undertake day-to-day operations.

These scores were added to a regime stability score to arrive at a Corruption Threat rating (T). This is offset against an Opacity score (O), which is based on our experts’ assessments of the comprehensiveness and reliability of public information, media openness, the freedom of human sources to converse and particular linguistic barriers such as transliteration or complex translation. We have also added new subsets of variables, including how accessible certain public records are (such as corporate filings, litigation filings, and media reporting).


The Corruption Challenge score (C) subtracts Opacity (O) from Corruption Threat (T);

C = T – O

The index’s most challenging countries are those assessed to have a high risk of both petty and grand corruption, less stable regimes and low availability of public information and business intelligence.

In addition to building the index we also asked our analysts to consider the three business sectors that are most exposed to corruption in each country. We were then able to produce regional and global frequency analyses based on this data.  

Working example below:
From our assessment, India’s Corruption Challenge score (C) is relatively low. Although the Corruption Threat (T) level is comparatively high, source information is readily available and of a good quality (O); hence offsets India’s overall Corruption Challenge score (C) which is somewhat low, and therefore it is a country which is relatively straightforward to do business in.'

Corruption Challenges Index editions