Corruption is as invisible as it is pervasive. Public trust is easily professed on public forums, and just as easily betrayed in back rooms. Money and favours influence decisions without leaving a trace. Pecunia non olet.

Yet corruption is not a victimless crime. Cutting corners on good governance costs money, endangers lives and erodes the public trust that oils the machinery of state in modern democracies.

So how to fight it? Corruption feeds off apathy and thrives in the shadows. It abhors the full glare of public attention. It is not a coincidence that the global organisation dedicated to its demise is called Transparency International.

TI produces annual reports, scorecards and a heat map of corruption around the world. The least corrupt countries, in the organisation's 2016 Corruption Perceptions Index, were New Zealand and Denmark, followed closely by the other Nordic countries. Most corrupt? Somalia, with South Sudan and North Korea not far behind.

The French subsidiary of TI went one step further, and visualised the corruption in France on a map. Linking corruption to specific locations suddenly gives the various crimes caught under that term a certain weight and heft – and increases its visibility.

This Cartographie des affaires de corruption immediately points to a number of corruption hot spots: two concentrated zones in Paris and the North (near the Belgian border), and in and around Bordeaux in the southwest. There is a string of malfeasance stretching along the Mediterranean coast, and the heavily dotted island of Corsica seems particularly prone to corruption.

Conversely, the interior of France is largely corruption-free, some departments even entirely so. Of course, the incidence of corruption varies with the density of population, and perhaps declines disproportionately in the almost-empty interior because there are so few people to be corrupted by.

 Each of the location markers is clickable, and provides a summary of the court case to which it refers. All parties mentioned are anonymised, but some are relatively easy to find out.

 

  • Like the “Mr. AAA, former Foreign Minister and former President of the Consitutional Council”, who was given a suspended sentence of 12 months in prison and a €150,000 fine for his complicity in the fraudulent sale in July 1994 of several works by the Swiss sculptor Giacometti. Additionally, AAA and BBB, the auctioneer, were ordered to pay €850,000 in damages to the Giacometti Foundation. Google Giacometti French Minister to find out the identity of the disgraced former Foreign Minister. Alright, we will tell you: Roland Dumas.
  • Possibly the northernmost case of corruption – the map is somewhat ambiguous – is that of an employee of La Poste in Bray-Dunes, who between December 2012 and March 2013 stole €3,073 in stamps from her post office. She was fired immediately after the facts became apparent in December 2012 and was convicted in January 2016 to pay a fine of €2,000, of course on top of the €3,073 she had to reimburse.
  • One of the most easterly corruption cases in France took place in Strasbourg in 1996, when a member of the regional council and three other members of his political party passed themselves off as police officers in order to check the identity of young people entering a congress meeting of their party. The councillor was given a suspended prison sentence of one year, and was deprived of his civic, civil and family rights for two years.
  • In Bastia, the president of the Regional Scientific Council for the Natural Heritage of Corsica was given an eight-month suspended jail sentence and a €5,000 fine. A construction company had paid him to vote for the alteration of a conservation zone that would have allowed it to build in the area. The environmental association that had filed the original complaint was awarded a symbolic €1 in damages. 
  • In Brest, the far west of France, a former prison guard was herself condemned to four years behind bars – two of which suspended – for smuggling drugs, alcohol and mobile phones into prison. She is banned for life from the civil service. The prisoners who received drugs from her received additional jail time.

 

And so you can hop from one case of embezzlement to the next case one of abuse of power or trust, or you could use the search window to look for cases within specific frames of time or money.

Click on the logos in the top left corner to send a message to Transparency International France (“Did we miss anything?”), leaf through a lexicon of corruption, a FAQ file and a word on the map’s methodology. There is also a “This just in” section, with the latest court rulings.

  • Including the one against the mayor of La Verpillière, who was sentenced for tearing up 85 parking tickets between 2010 and 2013. The defense argued that the mayor had acted in good faith, as the persons and communes who received the tickets had financial problems. Nevertheless, he received a suspended jail sentence – but will only need to pay back the total amount of the fines, €2,466. 

And finally, there is a full geographic overview of France, per region and per department. The most public-spirited departments of France are: Ardennes, Cantal, Cher, Creuse, Gers, Loir-et-Cher, Nièvre, Sarthe – not a single case of corruption in any of these. Paris, with 61 cases, is the most corrupt. Not surprising, considering the concentration of money and power in the capital.

There is another interesting measure of corruptness: the number of affaires (*10) divided by the Gross Domestic Product for each department. By that token, the French overseas territory of Saint-Martin (95.16) is light years ahead of even Paris (3.07).

Mapping corruption at country level brings home the pervasiveness of the problem. Does this map indicate that France is corrupt? The French could do better, but also a lot worse. According to TI's aforementioned 2016 Corruption Perceptions Index, France ranks #23 on the global list, just ahead of the Bahamas but behind Estonia. The U.S. is at #18.

This corruption map of France seems to be a local initiative. Similar maps of other countries would make for equally compelling reading. Except of course the corruption maps of Somalia, South Sudan and North Korea – they would be totally blank.

 

Map found at visualiserlacorruption.fr, produced by Transparency International France. 

Strange Maps #824

Got a strange map? Let me know at strangemaps@gmail.com.