10 years ago today (Ecuador supplement)

Actually it was February 2002, not March. We won’t quibble about 30 days.

Remember yesterday I said there can sometimes be hazards in taking out insurance?

Ecuador’s top military brass stepped down on 20 February after persistent rumours about shady dealings over an insurance contract made in Britain came to a head. Defence minister Hugo Unda issued a statement saying that the chiefs of the navy, air force and joint military command had left their posts in an effort to mitigate the effect on the armed forces of any fallout from the scandal. “They have presented a voluntary request to leave their posts so the armed forces can continue its prestigious service to the nation”, Unda said...
The scandal: Back in December, navy captain Rogelio Viteri reported to the ambassador [in London] that a military mission had contracted the insurance for a flotilla of aircraft -- without benefit of competitive tenders -- with the British firm... The mission comprised the chiefs of staff of the army, air force, and navy. The policy, Viteri said, cost US$13m. Moreover, he said, the officers took along their wives for a 14-day tour of Europe, allegedly at the expense of the British firm. Viteri was removed from his post and arrested for not having gone through the proper channels...

That was found in the 'Latin American Andean Group Report', 26 February 2002.

Subsequently, in April 2002, it was reported in Ecuador that the legal representative of the insurance firm told the military court that his company is independent of the company of the same name in London but that London personnel had been involved in paying the hotel bills as a “gesture of hospitality”.

At that time the UK legal position with regards to bribery of foreign officials was… in flux. Good old common law, alway evolving (slowly).

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Here is an interesting section from an OECD report in 1997 (pdf):

[It was] noted that the United Kingdom relied on a common law offence as well as statutory offences for implementing the obligation under the Convention to criminalise the bribery of foreign public officials and that neither offence expressly applied to the category of foreign bribery. The Group further noted that the common law offence did not appear in practice ever to have been applied to the bribery of a foreign public official, and there was only one reported case (the Raud case, 1989) where the statutory offences had been cited in relation to foreign bribery (the charge in that case was one of conspiracy to commit an offence under the 1906 Act). Moreover, the 1906 Act contained express language including within the definition of an ‘agent’ certain categories of domestic public official (“a person serving under the Crown,” etc) but was silent on the question of foreign public officials…  

Largely thanks to prodding from the OECD over many years, there have been significant improvements.

There are even claims that the UK legislation on bribery in the conduct of overseas business is now tougher than the pioneering US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

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