Why Is Bribery Of Foreigners In Foreign Even A British Crime?

We used to have this part of the law the right way around. Bribery, in Britain, of Britons, was something seriously illegal. It was also something rare – not just for the illegality but for cultural reasons. That’s just not the way we did things, brown envelopes and all that.

What foreigners did in foreign, well, that’s doing as Romans, isn’t it? If you’re in a part of the world where bribes are just the way things happen then that’s what you’ve got to do to be there.

Then we changed matters, in the past couple of decades. We should be as pure there as we are here. It became a crime, in British law, for someone here to bribe someone there:

A former oil executive has pleaded guilty to five counts of corruption in relation to bribing officials to secure contracts in the oil industry in Iraq. Basil Al Jarah, who is based in Hull, was oil services company Unaoil’s partner in Iraq. He pleaded guilty to conspiring to make corrupt payments in connection with contracts to supply and install moorings and oil pipelines in the southern part of the country. Al Jarah entered the plea on Monday, but the court only permitted it to be reported on Friday. The case is one of the biggest bribery investigations ever conducted by the Serious Fraud Office.

Jailing someone here for bribery in the Iraqi oil business isn’t going to stop bribery in the Iraqi oil business. It’s only going to mean that no one here is involved in that business. It’s not obvious that this is an advance.

For the avoidance of doubt, yes, I have indeed paid a bribe or two in my time. Even asked how I should treat it in the company accounts – the tax ones – and was told to mark it down as a bribe paid. Because, yes, HMRC is bright enough to know that in certain parts of the world that’s just what is done. Precisely the same with petty bribery, the cash douceurs necessary to complete daily life in some places. Sure, we know all about that, just give yourself a per diem and no receipts, she’ll be fine. We know about this, have estimates of roughly what that should all cost for different places.

Quite apart from the practicalities, isn’t it rather colonial to insist that all the darkies out there must live by our moral and legal standards?

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Bloke in North Dorset
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Bloke in North Dorset

I thought the euphemism was marketing costs or external consultant? At least that’s what I saw when working in foreign putting business cases together.

Boganboy
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Boganboy

What really bothers me about this sort of thing is that it grows. I just glanced at an article in which someone was demanding the Security Council stop people being killed in Syria NOW!!!

Well, suppose that the Security Council did. To even attempt this would require turning Syria, and perhaps some other countries, into a desert of radioactive glass.

People alas do not consider the actual limitations of power before they demand something.

Quentin Vole
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Quentin Vole

As I like to point out to people who demand that we become holier than thou, we could, if we wish, require that British businesses never pay bribes to anyone. The result would be that we only conduct business in North America, northern Europe and parts of Australasia – and that’s only if we choose not to count centre court tickets at Wimbledon* as a bribe.

* Other sporting events are available

James Bayley
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James Bayley

There are solid ethical, political and economic reasons for this law. Ethical. The reason that poor countries are poor is because of corruption and incompetence but mainly corruption. Millions die from it. We prosecute corruption here because many developing nations lack the capability to do so. An imperfect analogy is with child abuse, we prosecute child abuse by British citizens overseas because we believe the damage is so great that we must assist developing nations in the protection of their children Economic Here at the CT we believe that free markets and free trade benefit the consumer. Winning a contract… Read more »

Boganboy
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Boganboy

Solar power requires a huge network of solar panels and transmission lines to collect the diffuse energy source and a backup generator capable of providing the power when the sun doesn’t shine. It is thus more expensive than just building the backup generator.

As for coal instead of expensive imported oil or LNG, the Africans can simply round up the local louts and set them to digging coal with a pick and shovel. They have to earn the money to buy things overseas by selling the Middle Easterners something they want, and slavery is illegal these days.