Saturday, February 06, 2010

BAE buys its way out of jail

British arms dealer BAE has reached a settlement with the UK and US governments over long-running corruption investigations into corrupt arms deals in Tanzania, the Czech Republic, Romania and South Africa, by agreeing to pay £300 million in fines. This sounds like justice, but it is not. Rather than admitting bribery, BAE only has to admit false accounting and making misleading statements. As for the amount, while £300 million sounds impressive to us, its a small fraction of its £1.7 billion annual profit, and likely far less than the bribes they paid. BAE will not be blacklisted from future government contracts (a standard consequence of a corruption conviction), and will be free to continue their grubby, corrupt business unimpeded. The company's executives - none of whom will be facing jail - will regard this as money well spent.

As for the rest of us, we should be under no illusions about what has happened here: a rich corporation bought its way out of jail, effectively bribing the government to leave it alone. Isn't that the sort of thing they were being prosecuted for in the first place?