Friday, 11 April 2008

Yamamah done tole me

(Blues In the Night, Dinah Shore 1942, but that's irrelevant, really)

So the pleasingly named Lord Justice Moses has ruled that Tony Blair and his government acted illegally in halting the long-running investigation into secret payments made by BAE to Saudi Arabia. It is alleged that Prince Bandar, the heir to the throne of Saudi Arabia, threatened that the Typhoon contract would be stopped and intelligence and diplomatic relations pulled unless the investigation was dropped.

Prince Bandar (in Hindi, monkey) denied that the payment to him of £1 billion was in any way improper.

Back in 1994 the Guardian published two answers sent in by readers to the question: What is the difference between bribes paid to foreign politicians and consultancy fees paid to British politicians?

1: The difference is not unlike tax evasion and tax avoidance. In both cases, the objective and hence the end result is the same. The issue is not intention, but declaration. If it is not declared, then it is illegal. If it is, then it is merely unethical. In a fair world, however, there is no difference and there can be only one interpretation: corruption.

2: Some politicians need extra incentive to support decisions which are against the interests of those they supposedly represent. Others are willing to do such things without apparently needing outside inducement. So the answer is: bribes are necessary, consultancy fees are not.

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