A Question of Integrity, Part I

The London Times reported yesterday that IWC Vice-Chair Anthony Liverpool’s airfare and luxury hotel bill were fully paid for by a Japanese company, to the tune of £4,000 (US$6000). Along with the Vice-Chair, Japan is also reported to be picking up the travel and lodging tabs for the delegates of five other countries traveling to Agadir, Morocco.

The scandal couldn’t possibly come at a worse time. The IWC is already in the throes of allegations of corruption and vote buying, and underscores the need for an organizational overhaul to restore the organization’s credibility and transparency.

The Times article states that the Vice Chair’s travel tab was picked up by Japan Tours and Travel of Houston, a company said to be linked to Hideuki Wakasa, who has previously been identified as the middleman who makes secret payments to pro-whaling Caribbean countries.

When the story broke, the Vice-Chair acknowledged the accuracy of the allegations, which he then recanted, and then suddenly fell ill with a serious throat-infection that apparently inhibited his ability to further discuss that matter at all. There seems to be an “IWC bug” going around, because the Chair has also fallen ill, prohibiting his attendance at this year’s critical and contentious meeting. More on that later.

When advocacy groups brought up the issue of the Vice Chair’s alleged transgressions to members of the U.S. Delegation, we were informed that they “had every confidence in (Anthony’s) integrity, that he is innocent until proven guilty, and that they would inquire about the matter during the meeting.” To my ears, this sounded like the equivalent of saying “Stop, or we’ll say ‘stop’ again.” We were informed that “At this point in the process, any one administrator’s power is greatly diminished”, as if to minimize the gravity of the situation. Whether the Vice Chair is actually able to sway the direction of leadership in the Plenary or the voting process isn’t the point. The perception of a transparent, unbiased, and integrity-based leadership is of utmost importance at this critical juncture in the deciding the “Future of the IWC.”

The U.K. Commission has requested to bring the matter up on the Plenary floor; I applaud their efforts to hold IWC Chairs fully and immediately accountable for their actions.

On a side note, I’ve been to the Vice Chair’s hotel… characterizations of “luxury” are galactically overstated. This is, after all, Agadir.

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