Murphy's Law: Bribery Blues


February 2, 2008: Britain's external intelligence agency, MI6, has admitted that they told British prosecutors that Saudi Arabia threatened to stop sharing information in Islamic terrorists, if an investigation of Saudi corruption went forward. This investigation involved over $100 million in bribes paid to Saudi officials to ensure that British firms got weapons contracts. After the investigation was halted (at the end of 2006), Saudi Arabia proceeded to buy $8.7 billion worth of jet fighters from the British firm (BAE) that was under investigation. Many people familiar with how arms purchases were carried out in the Middle East, had already concluded that the corruption investigation was quashed because of threats from the Saudis.

At the same time, the British government was quite frank about not wanting to lose the sale. Until the last decade or so, most European governments did not investigate or prosecute use of such bribes. American companies had long complained about this European situation, which often meant lost sales for U.S. firms. American pressure has caused the Europeans to pass anti-bribery laws. Enforcement is another matter, as it often is.


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