Puerto Rico adopted an anti-corruption law consolidating and making tougher what had previously been several laws.
Gov. Ricardo Rosselló signed the measure Thursday.
Many in Congress and the federal executive branch have been working to put in protections for any federal money loaned to Puerto Rico in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. Some members of Congress have worried that federal money sent to Puerto Rico could be misused.
“We are committed to preventing corruption and anyone who betrays the trust placed in them by the people will be prosecuted,” Rosselló said. “We must make sure that all of the agencies involved collaborate in preventing and prosecuting any act of corruption.”
“The corrupt behavior of a public employee is a wrong that results in a lack of trust and credibility in the public service,” said Secretary of Justice Wanda Vázquez. “The new code provides us with more and better tools to continue promoting a public service of excellence, integrity, transparency, and effectiveness, while discouraging the devastating sense of impunity.”
Responding to the governor’s signature of the law, Puerto Rico attorney and commentator John Mudd tweeted, “The important thing is not the law but the execution of it, which in corruption issues is scarce in Puerto Rico.”
According to Rosselló, the law strengthens the protections of whistleblowers on government corruption.
The law increases the period that people can file civil actions related to reprisals to three years. It allows the government to file suits seeking triple damages.
The law says that those found guilty of corruption offenses and given prison terms will be excluded from eligibility for probation. The same will be the case for those convicted of obstruction of justice charges.
For several years the central officials focused on the fight against Puerto Rico governmental corruption have been on an interagency group concerning the topic.
Tuesday’s law states formally that this group is to continue indefinitely. Members of the group are the comptroller, the president of the panel of the special independent prosecutor, the secretary of justice, the secretary of the treasury, the police commissioner, the U.S. attorney for Puerto Rico, the inspector general, and the special agent in charge of the FBI’s San Juan Division.