Monday, October 20, 2008

Do bankers need blinkers?

The Angolagate Affair is for connoisseurs of corruption: it involves French politicians, Moscow-based intermediaries, complex financial arrangements, oil-rich African élites, a thoroughly brutal rebel movement, and an African war that the United Nations had recently been calling "the worst war in the world."

Today's TJN's blogger, as it happens, was shown some of these weapons, as he chatted one rainy night in 1994 with a group of nervous young Angolan soldiers, who were preparing to attack a town called Ndalatando. The weapons, it seems, were a great success: they retook the town the following day, and held on to it in the face of a ferocious counter-attack from UNITA rebels using captured tanks. This blog is not about the rights and wrongs of supplying arms, but about the corrupt financial deals behind them.

We'll spare you the details of the Angolagate trials that opened in Paris this month, and focus on just one quote that has emerged from Jean-Didier Maille, one of 42 people currently on trial in Paris.

"When you're a banker, you have to know how to have blinkers," Maille told the court during his cross-examination. You don't always know what's being sold, not necessarily, that's another issue ... We didn't have the arms sales contract, I didn't see it," he said.

Blinkers indeed. This happens every day, around the world. The chief judge, it seems, appeared unimpressed by Maille's defence. But we credit the banker with being honest.


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