Corruption is corruption is corruption

When Saudi Hawk fightersI’ve talked before about corruption and the international arms trade – with the allegations around the Al Yamamah deal with Saudi Arabia particularly in mind – it’s not been uncommon to get feedback about these sorts of crimes being – well – ok really, because everyone is at it, aren’t they?

Well – that’s not my view! So I’ve done a piece, published earlier today on Liberal Democrat Voice which addresses the issue head on:

Imagine you’ve been burgled and (by a small miracle!) someone is up in court, charged with the burglary. How impressed would you be if the accused said, “OK, I did do it – but you have to understand. I’m a poor student at the local university and all the French and US students there steal things too, so it wouldn’t be fair if I was left out and had to make do without the proceeds of crime too?” Not very I think! But that’s pretty much the excuse so often rolled out to brush away corruption around international arms deals – everyone else gives out bribes you know, and it would be so unfair and unforgivable if we didn’t too.

You can read the rest of my case over on Liberal Democrat Voice.

0 thoughts on “Corruption is corruption is corruption

  1. “Imagine you’ve been burgled and (by a small miracle!) someone is up in court, charged with the burglary.”Then you discover that they’re in court because some other crook was offered a deal in exchange for grassing on her colleagues. What’s this?! Someone avoiding just punishment for crimes in exchange for doing what any law-abiding citizen ought to have done all along? Can’t have that!But then the police say that it helps their business: more crooks are jailed and overall crime is reduced if they do deals. If you don’t do deals, pay ‘bribes’ of leniency in exchange for ‘bribes’ of evidence, the only people laughing will be the burglars.The police call it “intelligence” but what they often mean is information obtained socialising with criminals, who of course don’t give up such information for free. If you ever get your stolen goods back, you are profiting from that corruption. If you live in a low-crime neighbourhood, that might be a corrupt gain as well.The counter-argument is not as simplistic as “everybody is doing it” or “it’s unfair for everyone else to profit from crime and not us”, and I’m sure you know it. This strawman is a simple repeat of the argument you made before, and you haven’t addressed any of the substantive objections.Taking you article’s points in turn:First – Paying bribes to get a contract isn’t necessarily illegal. Laws often have loopholes. (Did the SFO actually have sufficient evidence to prosecute when the investigation was dropped? I had heard they hadn’t, and to call it criminal bribery without such proof may be libellous.)Second – is the damage caused by the Al Yamamah affair because we were caught paying bribes, or because we exposed it and embarrassed one of our trade partners? Nobody wants that sort of publicity – nobody will do deals with a snitch.Third – corruption is a consequence of barriers to trade. A government that legislates one such barrier will usually legislate many more.Fourth – such governments have encouraged terrorism and hatred in order to ensure your support. Their “help” is conditional on it.Fifth – there is no international will to stop corruption. Only to stop other nations using corruption so that they can get the contracts. See how successful “international will” was at stopping Saddam Hussein profiting from the sale of oil.And the arms trade is only a tiny proportion of all trade, and it’s all corrupt. Even if you succeeded in this one area, all you’d do is move their operations elsewhere.Final point: I am firmly against bribery and corruption, and am not arguing here that it is somehow “alright” – but I regard it as a symptom and mitigation of a deeper malaise. I believe that to attack the symptom and leave the cause in place only makes things worse.