Monday, July 13, 2009

The Dark Arts for Good Guys Series: Bribery

According to Black's Law Dictionary bribery is the offering, giving, receiving, or soliciting of any item of value to influence the actions of an official or other person in discharge of a public or legal duty.

And it goes by many names, Baksheesh in Africa, Mordida, dash, spiffs, "fines", tea money, "processing fees", cadeau, payola, gifts, etc. For the morally uptight who don't travel the world, you think "not me." Well Ned Flanders let's just recognize that the rules of the world were set up before you got there, and not everyone loves Jesus like you and me.

Currently one of the biggest and most and acceptable forms of bribery occur in over seas adoption. I'm not talking about illegal child deals, but rather actual government officials and real legitimate orphanages. The current rate of "extended paper work fees" in Guatemala run between $5000.00 and $10,000.00 and China's go from $10,000-$20,000.

For the sake of this article let me preference this, as a general rule of thumb we are talking about outside the United States. Bribery in the U.S. isn't necessarily rare, but you won't find bribery acceptable amongst the road cops and highly advise against it.

Some fees are straight up. When I flew into one middle eastern country and we went through customs there was a $20 processing fee for Americans.

The thing you have to get past your own virtues.

If you're trying to change the world, good for you. You've got your Master's degree and you voted for Hope and Change. But people (including low level government types) are literally starving in that poor country you've come to "save". That sawbuck you would use back home for a McDonald's value meal might infact buy some poor smuck's family something more than rice to eat, or medicine for his kids ear infection where the free health care wait is six months.

So how do you deliver on the bribe to that unshaved patrol man after your fender bender in Mexico, or carrying that Makarov with no permit in Tanzania?

Never discuss dollor amount. Don't say "so how much to make this go away."


You don't start flipping out a wad of bills until he says stop.

This is as much about social palaver as it is about the bribe. Its also about you learning to be submissive, polite and keeping your potentially ugly American mouth shut.

Did I mention polite.

A good way to read the officer's intentions and level of honesty or corruption is when he arrives, if he talks with you and tries to resolve the problem first. That's good. He's open to talking and listening.

If he arrives cuff's you, begins beating your ass and won't let you talk. Shut up, go to the station and maybe you'll have better luck with his boss.

You'll be greeted with a scenario such as "I have to take you to the Polezia station to resolve this." Then he may pause for a moment. Your response should generally be something to the effect of asking if there is a way to take of the problem here and now so you both can be on your way. Because after all he is an important officer of the law and has better things to do with his day than deal with a dumb American like you.

One favorite is "Yes of course. You are the man in charge here. Thank you for being so reasonable (even if he's not). Obviously there is a fine involved here for my mistake. Can I just pay it here?"

Watch for hesitancy, and give him a moment to consider it. Look innocent and dumbfounded and keep quiet. If he says no immediately I wouldn't encourage pushing it. But if you want to try say something to the effect of " well I just figure I have to pay this fine for my mistake regardless and I was hoping I could just take care of that here. You wouldn't know what the fine is by any chance do you?"

Yes, for the most part I repeated my statement there.

Letting the other guy think he's smart and you're stupid is key here. He already has the authority, making him feel intellectually smarter can save you from a trip to the station, a beating or both.

It's also wise to pull out a smoke at this point and light up and offer him one.

But you don't smoke.

Neither do I, minus the occasional cigar. But I never, without cigarettes.

Marlboro's usually.

A smoke can open a door that would otherwise stay closed, get you an ally or a look out. Smoking establishes camaraderie and makes you a working class stiff just like him.

If language is a problem indicate that you are in a hurry and show him your passport, plane tickets, official papers (lots of stamps and seals are a good thing to have) with a single bank note of currency tucked where he can see it.

The key here is...have cash. He's not going to amble over to the ATM or Bank of Venezuela with you.

So how much?

Well it depends on the situation of course, but surprisingly most people get in trouble by offering too much money to too small of fish. He gets suspicious that he's being trapped. The flip side is you've just insulted a big gutted and slovenly captain that you thought was a patrol man by not offering enough.

I didn't say it was easy. There is an art to it.

A fake traffic stop (speeding when you weren't, stop signs that weren't there, headlights that work just fine but the officer insists didn't). These are a good sign of pay on the spot fines. They generally go for $5-$15 (U.S.)

Real traffic violations go for $20-$50

Serious Traffic violations (Drunk driving, racing, excessive speeding, etc) $50-$500

Serious Car accidents, no one killed, but injuries $500-$1,000+

Accidents where fatalities are involved. Along with Judges, police chief's, lawyers, and prosecutors $2,000-$10,000+

Those dirty bad things you've done (running guns, drugs, prostitutes, etc)? Get a lawyer and ask him how much the bribes are going to be (expect in the excess of $10,000-$50,0000). (Source: WMDP)

But there are also gangs and bandits to consider. Which is more safe passage than bribery since they are not officials.

Every country is different, and on this I couldn't be more serious. So do some research. In one country the best way to bribe is still with the U.S. Dollar. But in others (like Cuba) bribing a local constable with American cash can get him executed for being in possession of the Great Satan's $. So go with local currency that will keep you and him from getting lead poisoning in the back of the head.

IF you get in country and don't know. Go to the bar.


Hit up the ex-pats and local journalists (not foreign journalist. These dumb-asses copy everything from the local journo's). Give the bartender a smoke and ask where the locals go. Or contact the local U.S. Mission or embassy and ask where is a good spot to find the ex-pats.

The key to bribery is simple. You are simply greasing wheels to facilitate services that would otherwise be denied, restricted or delayed. If you don't mind waiting or being told no and turned away keep your money.

If nothing else, the next time you walk into your favorite exclusive restaurant without a reservation and they say its an hour and half wait slide the girl in the slinky black dress a ten spot and get seated in fifteen minutes and be the hero of your party.

I once paid (no joke) a $100 for a pepperoni pizza at 12:25am New Years Eve in Key West because my Principal and his girlfriend where starving. The line was literally out the door and around the block of the little walk up pizza joint. I strolled past the line looked at the manager and said "I'll give you $100 for the next pepperoni pizza out of the oven". He looked at me and said "done."

Of course advice on this blog is for entertainment purposes while you're at work and supposed to be doing that other thing.


James R. Rummel said...

Great post! Looking forward to Part II.

Anonymous said...

I work for one those US government agencies. The following occured in one of the poorer ME countries.

I was being driven downtown in an embassy vehicle when another car sideswiped our vehicle. Our vehicle being a one-ton armored van barely noticed the hit. The car that hit us was an older Renault. The whole side of his car was caved in.
Anyhow, the police came and much talking between the policeman, my driver and the other driver ensued. After awhile the cop moved over to his motorcycle and my driver came over to me. I asked him what it would take to make this whole thing disappear. He said give him 500pounds(20pounds was $1.00). He came back a few minutes later and as we drove away gave me back 300pounds change.

Dan from Madison said...

I also am looking forward to the rest of the series.

Michael said...

This is a most excellent post. I look forward to more in the series, if you have the inclination.

Seabat said...

I had an exciting episode in Mombasa, Kenya in 1972. I made the mistake of pee'ing on a bush in the Kilindini National Park at Midnight.You remember, it's across the street from the Florida Bar. Anyway, I had no money on me and my buddy, Bob, had thirteen shillings. The "fine" started at 100 pounds, we settled for the thirteen shillings.(About $1.67) Thank God for Bob and his bargaining skills. He still brags how he bought me and owns my butt!

Unknown said...

Your mention of cigarettes is right on the money. In Indonesia approximately 97% of the adult male population smokes. Hmmm. In England, offering a local guy a Newport (which they don't have access to) caused him to become my new best friend and nausious at the same time. Cigarettes are a fast way to a bosom buddy.

Anonymous said...

Visiting Cairo during the previous administration, spent some time at the pyramids. Armed guards everywhere and no one was allowed to touch. One of the local "tour guides" facilitators was trying to provide service for Baksheesh. I asked if someone could climb the pyramids, and was assured it wasn't possible, unless...

A twenty shared between him and the guard in the area rendered me invisible, and I was able to watch the sun set from the Queens Pyramid over Geza.
I probably paid too much but it was worth it to me.

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