The good business guide to bribery

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A BOOKLET with the enticing title Grand Corruption in Third World Development is circulating discreetly among selected government ministers and executives of British companies that do business overseas.

George Moody-Stuart, a semi-retired consultant who has spent 30 years working in the sugar industry in East Africa, the South Pacific and Caribbean, has written a businessmen's equivalent of an academic paper on bribery and corruption in commercial dealings between developed and developing countries. He reveals the scale of what he calls 'the cancer of grand corruption'.

He writes: 'The incidence of grand corruption has increased tremendously during the last decade. What used to concern a relatively small number of people working in a relatively small number of countries has now become a major North- South problem.'

Defining grand corruption as 'the abuse of public power by heads of state, ministers and senior officials for private and pecuniary gain', Mr Moody- Stuart does not mince words: 'The politicans whom I know in the South range from greedy, unmitigated crooks to totally honest and high-principled men, with the former increasingly outnumbering the latter.'

Unlike some Western politicians and businessmen, Mr Moody-Stuart does not place the blame for corruption on some alien culture overseas. 'In the final analysis, the giving and receiving of all 'inducements' must be dishonest.'

Published last year and sent to about 200 company directors and politicians, it is also required reading for delegates involved in a working party on 'illicit payments' set up by the Organisation for Economic Co- operation and Development.

Next month the committee will try to reach a consensus over adopting a joint strategy for the elimination of bribes by Western companies to secure lucrative contracts in developing countries. The United States delegation wants all OECD countries to make such payments illegal and to stop the practice whereby they are tax- deductible in some, including Britain.

The British and Japanese are said to be the most resistant to enforcing such changes. The OECD initiative is being promoted by a new pressure group, Transparency International, which is campaigning for the creation of a code of ethics to minimise bribery in international business dealings. Mr Moody-Stuart, who lives in Ashtead, Kent, has become an active member of TI. His book reveals some colourful examples of the subtle, and not so subtle, methods used to extract a bribe.

One permanent secretary, after two or three detailed discussions on the technical and economic merits of a project, said: 'By the way, I have a son at college in the US. If your company does this job, could you help with the bills? And perhaps an air fare for his summer vacation? I don't like to ask but it is costing more than I expected.'

Another permanent secretary: 'I like your approach to this project and your indication of price is a little lower than we had expected. Perhaps we could save time by negotiating a contract rather than going for competitive bids. Then I'm sure you wouldn't mind including something for my ministers and myself. We don't get pensions, you know.'

(Photograph omitted)