John Gillies attacks crooked officials, financial fraudsters and philandering sports heroes
Ewen MacAskill in Washington
Wednesday 9 December 2009
One of the FBI's top agents warned yesterday that corruption in the US was increasing and tearing at the fabric of society.
Special agent John Gillies, who has led major anti-corruption drives during his 27-year career with the bureau, focused his words primarily on crooked financiers and unscrupulous officials.
However, he added that sporting heroes such as Tiger Woods were also to blame, letting down children who saw them as role models. The golfer is currently embroiled in scandal since his high-profile car crash on 27 November. "Money can't buy everything," Gillies said.
He told a chamber of commerce meeting in Boca Raton, Florida, that failures in personal ethics and integrity sowed the initial poisonous seeds of corruption in a society.
He said that fallen sporting heroes sent the wrong message to the young: that cheating was acceptable.
In a speech reported by Reuters, he said: "It really gets at the soul and fabric of the United States when people are out there corrupting. It all starts with simple ethics violations."
Gillies described corruption as the number one crime in the US and disclosed that public corruption investigations had jumped by 20% over the last five years and 25% in the last year.
Gillies, who was brought up in Chicago and said he was inspired as a child to join the FBI by reading a history of the organisation and its battles against Al Capone, has held a series of senior positions within the FBI, with a particular focus on corruption.
He has served from Hawaii to New York and established a reputation for bringing corrupt officials to court.
As well as what he saw as a decline in moral standards, he blamed the recession for increasing corruption, with people looking for high-earning financial schemes that often turned out to be scams.
For anyone tempted by easy money or looking for a way out of a dead-end job, he offered this advice: "The worst day at work is still better than the best day in jail."