The group’s 2018 Corruption Perception Index (CPI) placed Sweden in a four-way tie for third place when it comes to the perceptions of corruption levels amongst officials and authorities in different countries.
The index ranks 180 countries and territories by their perceived levels of public sector corruption according to experts and businesspeople, using a scale of 0 to 100, where 0 is highly corrupt and 100 is very clean.
Sweden’s score of 85 equalled that of Finland, Singapore and Sweden. Topping the list were Denmark and New Zealand, results that seem surprising given major corruption-related cases in Denmark last year, including a massive money-laundering scandal at the Estonian branch of Danske Bank, Denmark's biggest lender.
The CPI, however, looks only at the perception of public sector corruption, which means that recent events like the Swedish telecom firm Telia being hit with nearly $1 billion in fines for bribing an Uzbek government official did not drag down Sweden’s score either.
In a press release accompanying the CPI, Transparency International raised the alarm over “a global pattern of stagnating anti-corruption efforts and a worldwide crisis of democracy”.
“Corruption chips away at democracy to produce a vicious cycle, where corruption undermines democratic institutions, and in turn, weak institutions are less able to control corruption,” the group’s managing director, Patricia Moreira, said.
Transparency International’s acting representative to the United States said it was “a red flag” that the US score in the ranking has dropped four points in just two years, leaving the US out of the top 20 for the first time since 2011.
“A four-point drop in the CPI score is a red flag and comes at a time when the US is experiencing threats to its system of checks and balances, as well as an erosion of ethical norms at the highest levels of power,” Zoe Reiter said. “If this trend continues, it would indicate a serious corruption problem in a country that has taken a lead on the issue globally.”
As a whole, Transparency International said that no nation in the world – top performers like Sweden included – is doing enough to fight corruption. It pointed out that two-thirds of all countries scored below 50 on the 100-point scale and that only 20 countries have seen significant improvements since 2012 while 16 others have seen their scores fall significantly.
Sweden has seen its score fall from 89 as recently as 2015 to the 85 points it was awarded in the 2018 index.
Graphic: Transparency International