Saturday, 6 February 2010

The Fetid Stench of Rotting Corruption

There was a time when £280million was an awful lot of money, but our senses are dulled to numbers these days and just over a quarter of a billion pounds no longer seems that much.

That's how much BAE Systems, Britain's largest manufacturer, has agreed to pay to a variety of US and UK authorities to stop legal action against its historic and systemic dodgy business activities. To put it into context, a single contract for BAE Systems in question in Saudi Arabia for 100 fighter planes was worth £43billion. Over the years, it was alleged that BAE Systems greased the hands of a fair number of officials and middle men in order to secure many lucrative contracts, including one air traffic control system for £24m to Tanzania which was antiquated technology and not really fit for purpose, which collectively were equivalent to a small financial meltdown in current terminology.

The company has played down the whole payment claiming they are now a clean and transparent company while the systematic corruption at the heart of their business methodology was never referred to as such. No doubt the terms of the compromise with authorities allows them never to be openly accused of such although Clare Short was swift to point out on Radio Five Live yesterday that this was at the heart of the matter.

And so too was our pious and righteous former leader, Tony Blair. It was he, in his own wise judgement, who halted the investigation by the Serious Fraud Office into BAE Systems' dealings in Saudi Arabia, allegedly as it threatened Britain's national security.

I dare say it threatened someone's security. It was the same sort of righteous decision making that made him send our armed forces into Iraq, no doubt. The same sort of knowledge, the same protection of our national interests, the same sound legal reasoning. All we can have no doubt over. As in the peerages for donations scandal, when it comes to his integrity, Teflon Tony Blair was bullet-proof. All was done with a 'Pure Heart', as Cherie Blair was to famously say.

I think the all pervading stench of corruption is washing over us all and £280m was the small price to pay to keep a lot of names out of the headlines and save a lot of careers. In that context, this was a small price to pay by BAE Systems to ensure they have the future cooperation of some very senior individuals in Government and middle ground all over the world.

The £280m is 'marker' on all those names that their careers have been saved by drawing a line under the whole affair. In that context, the £280m is the biggest of all the BAE Systems' bribes yet.
It ensures the business will be as usual for the future.

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