Jeremy Deller recently made a poster that says: ‘Cronyism is English for Corruption.’ I’ve been trying to collect the other words that journalists and politicians in England use for it. There are a lot of them. We’ve got revolving doors, outside work, private earnings, temporary secondments and second jobs. There’s lobbying, bias, cash for honours, cash for access, cash for questions. A chumocracy with preferential access, paid advocacy, sleaze, side hustles, a lack of transparency, special treatment, favours in kind, treats and gifts, patronage and not fully declaring an interest. Purges, packed boards and preferred appointees. VIP or high-priority lanes, undue influence, bending the rules, changing the rules. Conflict of interest, actual and perceived. Unenforced procurement protocols.
When I went to look round President Viktor Yanukovych’s former estate, on a mild Sunday in October, the so-called Museum of Corruption was full of visitors. Children clambered onto giant his-and-hers thrones set up opposite the mansion; couples swooned over Italianate gardens; people solemnly fed alpacas. The Trump impeachment inquiry had recently begun. The editor of the Mirror Weekly, Julia Mostovaya, wrote that both Democrats and Republicans in the US were once again using Ukraine to play ‘domestic political golf’ with little regard for the country’s own interests – including its need, in the light of ongoing Russian aggression, to stay in the good graces of both American parties.
When Britain’s insular political class thinks of Italy, it is usually as a byword for instability or venality – an unwarranted form of self-congratulation. Britain had no Tangentopoli: its forms of corruption are more sedate and domestic, and, if not always entirely legal, usually occupy a grey zone of establishment omertà.
On Wednesday 17 April, early in the morning, the police came to former president Alan García’s house in Lima to arrest him in connection with the multibillion-dollar corruption case surrounding the Brazilian construction firm Odebrecht. García told the officers he would call his lawyer, locked himself in a room and shot himself in the head. He died a few hours later in hospital.
After eighteen months of memoir-writing in his £25,000 shepherd’s hut, interrupted now and then by lucrative international speaking engagements on the implications of the political mess that he made, David Cameron yesterday returned to a British podium for the first time since the morning of 24 June 2016 to attack three easy targets: Trump, Putin and Fifa. In a lecture to Transparency International, he looked ahead to next year’s World Cup in Russia, and back to the bidding process that took place in 2010. ‘President Putin actually boycotted the whole thing because he said it was riddled with corruption,’ the Guardianreports Cameron as having said. ‘He was right – it was.’
The death toll from the earthquake that struck on 19 September has reached 338, with 199 in Mexico City, while more than 100 perished in the quake on 7 September in Chiapas and Oaxaca. Around 150,000 dwellings were damaged, including 57,000 that were totally destroyed. 250,000 people lost their homes. The federal government puts the amount needed to build or repair affected housing at 16 billion pesos, the equivalent of £660 million. It will cost more than 13 billion pesos to repair 12,932 damaged schools; 577 are a total loss. Around 1500 historic monuments have been damaged, mostly churches, convents and museums, and 8 billion pesos will be required for their repair. The government is appealing to the business community for funds. On Wednesday afternoon, I went to the site of the collapsed four-storey building at 168 Bolívar Street, on the corner of Chimalpopoca.
The huge blast at a chemical factory in Tianjin on 12 August, which killed around 150 people, was China's worst industrial accident for several years. Since then there have been two more explosions in Shandong province, and now another in Zhejiang province on Monday. There have been at least 38 explosions so far this year at chemical plants, firework factories and mines. Among the causes are a lack of oversight, local corruption and attempts to boost profits by employing less qualified workers or ignoring safety protocols. These problems are endemic to most areas of the Chinese economy, whether it be food provision, the rail network or domestic tourism, all of which have seen serious accidents or health scares in recent years.
With great power, as Spider-Man's Aunt May didn't put it, comes great opportunity to shirk responsibility. It's one law for the feral underclass, bundled into the all-night magistrates' court for speedy and punitive sentencing; another for their feral overlords, dodging a £10 million tax bill with a handshake. For a while there it looked as if Liam Fox counted himself among the immune elite, clinging to office as the revelations of malfeasance kept on coming. But David Cameron and the so-called Thatcherite wing of the Tory Party, as if the prime minister weren't a Thatcherite, must have reached a deal, and Fox has been flushed in favour of 'the motorist's friend', Philip Hammond.
L’état, c’est Jacques. In a moving peroration at the end of the ex-president’s recent corruption trial, his lawyer Georges Kiejman declared: ‘You can’t drag down Jacques Chirac, who embodied France for twelve years, without dragging down France itself.’ The jowly satyr, pronounced too gaga to appear in court, makes for one of Marianne’s unlikelier incarnations. But Kiejman’s cri de coeur captures the fusion of executive, judicial and administrative power in French politics. Fuelling the process is, of course, wonga.
India’s preparations for the Commonwealth Games have become an international embarrassment. Earlier this month the Central Vigilance Commission examined several construction projects relating to the games and found them wanting, a judgment confirmed by the recent collapse of a bridge that injured 27 people. It even looked for a while as if the games could be cancelled. There are also many stories of corruption. The National Campaign on Dalit (ex-untouchable) Human Rights alleges that $150 million was siphoned away from schemes for assisting low castes in Delhi to be spent on the games. According to the People’s Union for Democratic Rights, construction workers have not been provided with safety equipment and are being paid less than the minimum wage. Some reports say that as many as 49 people have died building stadiums and facilities for the games.
The mood in Pakistan is bitter, angry and vengeful. Effigies of Salman Butt have been burned, his name has been painted on donkeys and the no-ball bowlers are being violently abused all over the country. Demands that the corrupt cricketers be hanged in public are gaining ground. Among younger members of the elite there is shock that Butt (educated at a posh school) has let the side down. Mohammad Amir they could understand since he’s from a poor family. The blindness of this cocooned layer of young Pakistanis is hardly a surprise, but popular anger should not be underestimated. The no-ballers and their captain will need round-the-clock security when they return. Much better to take a long holiday abroad (surely they can afford it) and let tempers cool. There is enough evidence already for them to be suspended, if not by the neck.