Philip Kisob Philip Kisob Managing Director at Hudson Partners Inc.
retrieved from LinkedIn |Cameroon Network Group
I have been guilty recently of getting all indignant about corruption and how it’s at the root of all evil. This I believe is why Africa is suffering from under-development and uncaring despots. If we could only curb corruption things would get better! Right?
I sent out about four emails in the last month to forum friends, quoting heavily from a Global Witness report “Undue Diligence: How banks do business with corrupt regimes”. The emails detailed how recent investigations tracked illegally gained oil kick-backs controlled by an Anguillan offshore company were deposited in a Hong Kong bank account and then lavishly spent with a credit card in procession of the President of Congo-Brazzaville’s son at designer boutiques in Paris. The amounts accounted for were incredible and disgusting. The leaders from Gabon, Congo, Angola and Equatorial Guinea were reported to be worth millions or billions. The report was the same old sad story of rich African leaders ruling over poor people and nations.
Four recent incidents have had me thinking about the “cancer” called corruption:
1.The British government suspension of self government in the Caribbean islands of Turks and Caicos because of fears of corruption.
2.A heated argument that I had with two English expatriates at a pizza bar in Anguilla. I pointed out the hypocrisy of the British government. Did they not know that Her Majesty’s Government sanctioned the largest corporate corruption deal in the history of man! I was referring to the BAE – Saudi Princes bribery cover-up that amounts to payments well over 8 billion dollars. (watch a great documentary on this scandal on PBS - http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/blackmoney/view/ ) I didn’t bother to waste my breath on the petty cash involved in the House of Commons expense scandal that is still going on.
3.President Bongo of Gabon’s death – A man believed to have amassed a fortune of over two billion dollars during his 42 years reign of power.
4.Another vigorous discussion I had, this time in Maryland, with a Cameroonian attorney who claimed his president (Paul Biya) was corrupt free and only had a modest fortune of only $100 million dollars. After all he had been in power for 26 years and that amounted to a $3.8 million dollar a year pay package! My only knowledge of Mr. Biya’s net worth comes from a 1997 New York Times article that had his bank account at $75 million after 15 years in office (I make that $12 million a year). (NY Times October 5, 1997 - http://www.nytimes.com/1997/10/05/weekinreview/the-world-in-africa-there-s-more-than-one-great-dictator.html )
Before you have me signing up as a volunteer for Transparency International, let’s just say that I remembered a great scene from the movie “Syriana” when an angry Texas oil man informs a US justice department lawyer that “Corruption is why we win”. No truer words have ever been spoken before in a movie!
The US government in the puritanical Carter days and post Watergate passed the 1977 Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and have since been wagging their finger at the Europeans and the rest of the world for “sanctioning” corruption.
I have already mentioned the British BEA-Saudi affair; we were all shocked by the ten year investigation into Elf Aquitaine of France’s “caisse noir” and how the French government bribed and stole its way around the world. The ever-so-efficient Japanese can’t function without corruption. The World Bank estimates that corruption is a trillion dollar a year industry. So I would like to throw up a few questions:
•Could Corruption be a vital part and way of doing business?
•Should it be legalised and seen as justifiable commissions/bonuses (Wall Street Style)?
•Wouldn’t the newly legalised Black Money become more productive to the world economy?
Nobel laureate Milton Friedman said "Corruption is government intrusion into market efficiencies in the form of regulations".