Thursday, June 07, 2007

Off with his hands?

I entered Saudi Arabia, having crossed the Red Sea on a ferry from Port Sudan to Jeddah, in 2003. A huge sign hung above the the final customs barrier. The sign didn't say, "Welcome to Saudi Arabia," or, "Peace be upon you," but rather, the 'not so welcoming message' hanging from the portico said, "The penalty for imporing narcotics into the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is Death!"

Saudi Arabian courts are strictly based on Islamic Sharia law. They are notoriously harsh and unforgiving. A Palestinian-Canadian boy found this out recently after a school brawl left a fellow student dead. The blame has been pinned on this Pal-Can boy, despite controversial and limited evidence that would struggle to hold up in a Western Court. He's been sentenced to death.
So, what to do with this Saudi Prince? Through a not so complicated kickback scheme, he organized for Saudi Arabia to pay 80 billion dollars (likely ten billion too much) for aviation equipment from UK based giant BAE. In return, BAE syphoned $240 million per year back into two US embassy accounts directly linked to him.

The penalty for theft in Saudi Arabia is the relatively light sentence of chopping one's right hand off.
That's what I'm interested in. Not the ripple effect through British politics, nor the ethics of BAE.
Due to Prince Bandar's family, does he have impunity to steal hundreds of millions of dollars from Saudi Arabian coffers?
In Canada, a scandal of not nearly the same scale, in which numerous individuals or companies benefited a few million, brought down our government.

I don't blame BAE for their action. If they hadn't been willing to "deal", Boeing would have been happy to. If not Boeing, then someone else.
Prince Bandar bin Sultan is the most important Saudi diplomat in modern history. Prior to leaving his post in 2005, he served as ambassador to the United States for over twenty years. He was America's most important ally in the Middle East and personally helped stave off an oil crisis by assuring increased output leading up to the Iraq war.
He had more influence in Washington than any other diplomat in the world.
He was particularly close to George W Bush, who received the nickname Bandar Bush, and became an honourary member of the rich Saudi family.

Will this icon of global power and wealth be brought to justice for stealing a princely sum? Pardon the pun. So he stole more money than me and all of my friends combined will likely earn in our lifetimes. It's not like he accidentally brought a joint into Saudi Arabia. Then he'd really be in trouble!

No comments: