Before last Monday’s Panorama about the Al Yamamah bribery scandal (in brief: lots of allegations about BAE breaking the law and bribing Saudis to get a big arms contract; big criminal investigation finds lots of evidence; but the investigation was axed before being concluded; both the BBC and The Guardian have unearthed plenty more since then) I emailed out to quite a few people to let them know about the TV show.
The gist of a few responses was that bribery being illegal didn’t matter – everyone does it – so if you want the business you have to be willing to bribe. I’m going to write about this in more detail soon (and I wonder how people with this view would respond if someone burgled them and the burglar said, ‘oh, that’s ok – loads of people carry out burglaries, so you can’t really expect me to be different’!), but I just wanted to highlight now the difference with France – there corruption allegations involving arms deal and powerful people with top political connections do get followed through; see here for example.
If France can take corruption seriously and prosecution people (and the US prosecutes people too), why should we turn a blind eye to corruption?
(And let’s not forget – there are very, very few countries that could have sold jet fighters to Saudi Arabia – it really is feasible to stop corruption in these sorts of large arms contracts as there is – or was until the UK took its ball away – a strong international consensus to prosecute bribery).
And as for boy David and “tough on crime” Conservatives – they haven’t been willing to speak up for enforcing the law on Al Yamamah either. I guess Labour and the Tories are just leaving it to the Liberal Democrats to be tough on crime!