Saturday, December 15, 2007

Corruption is why you and I are prancing around in here instead of fighting over scraps of meat out in the streets.

Steve LeVine on his excellent blog The Oil and the Glory has a post titled “Prosecuting Foreign Bribery Under the Bush Administration”. Relating events in the ongoing James Giffin “Kazakhgate” case to our current administrations penchant for secrecy.

When they unveiled the indictment in April 2003, U.S. prosecutors portrayed their case against James Giffen as open and shut -- the largest foreign bribery case in U.S. history. And by the looks of the detail, they had reason for confidence. There they were -- six individual examples of U.S. oil company payments totalling some $80 million being coursed through European bank accounts linked to the president of Kazakhstan or his associates.

As regular readers of this blog recall, Giffen once controlled the biggest oil deals in the world as oil adviser to Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev. He's the principal character in The Oil and the Glory.

Yet in a New York court hearing today, the case seemed a lot more complex. Judge William Pauley, who two years ago issued fiery warnings to both sides to accelerate the pace, was reduced to a mild rebuke of the prosecution, and scheduling the next hearing for April 18th. And jury selection? Not a hint.

What's the holdup? The defense, brilliantly led by former U.S. prosecutor William Schwartz, wants documents from a handful of U.S. intelligence agencies to prove Giffen's contention that the whole time he was negotiating those oil deals for a fee, he was doubling as an effective agent for the American government.

This being probably the most secretive administration in U.S. history, dislodging such documentation takes time. Perhaps a friend of mine is right -- we may not see a trial until this administration is out of office.

Once again I will evoke this scene from Syriana, oft cited on this blog:

Some trust fund prosecutor, got off-message at Yale, thinks he's gonna run this up the flagpole, make a name for himself, maybe get elected some two-bit, congressman from nowhere, with the result that Russia or China can suddenly start having, at our expense, all the advantages we enjoy here. No, I tell you. No, sir. Corruption charges! Corruption? Corruption is government intrusion into market efficiencies in the form of regulations. That's Milton Friedman. He got a goddamn Nobel Prize. We have laws against it precisely so we can get away with it. Corruption is our protection. Corruption keeps us safe and warm. Corruption is why you and I are prancing around in here instead of fighting over scraps of meat out in the streets. Corruption is why we win.

P.S. - Steve's The Oil and Glory: The Pursuit of Empire and Fortune on the Caspian Sea, is excellent.

1 comment:

Steve said...

Bourbonandlawndarts, thanks for the comment. Best Steve