Belmont Club

Bang for buck

Two little known news stories about a bombing which killed 11 French technical consultants suggest that in the hard world of international salesmanship, it is hard to welsh on an unspoken deal. The Times of India reports that the French engineers were killed, not  by terrorists, but by Pakistani officials who were waiting unsuccessfully for their kickbacks. The French decided not to pay bribes earlier agreed upon and the Pakistanis decided to send a high explosive message. The French, being more civilized, replied with hit men and leg-breakers.

LONDON: High-ranking Pakistani officials were behind the killing of eleven French ship-building engineers in Karachi seven years ago, two French judges have ruled. Until now al-Qaida had been blamed for the bomb attack on a bus in 2002 that killed 11 engineers and three Pakistanis.

The judges suspected that the Pakistanis were retaliating over a decision by former French President Jacques Chirac, to halt payment to Pakistani officers of millions of pounds in secret commission from an 720 million pounds contract signed in 1994, for three French submarines, the Time reported on Tuesday. ..

According to media reports, the French secret service retaliated after the 2002 attack, breaking the legs of two Pakistan navy admirals and killing a lower-ranking officer.

The Reuters account of events is a tad less spectacular. But only a tad. They suggest that a French politician glommed in on the slush fund, depriving the Pakistanis of their kickbacks and precipitating the attack. Reuters writes:

The investigating magistrates obtained a top secret internal memo in October 2008 from a state-owned military shipbuilder which contains the allegations, Morice said.

The memo, copies of which were shown on French media on Friday, says French and Pakistani officials connived to take bribes as part of the sale of French Agosta submarines to Pakistan in the mid-1990s.

According to the memo, some of the kickbacks that were paid to French officials ended up in the electoral campaign funds of then Prime Minister Edouard Balladur, a rival of Jacques Chirac ahead of the 1995 presidential election, a judicial source familiar with the matter told Reuters….

The secret memo says France stopped paying the bribes after the 1995 election, won by Chirac, and that Pakistani officials kept asking for them for several years.

The allegation is that they eventually lost patience and organised in retaliation the attack on the bus full of French engineers, who were working on the Agosta submarine project.

Underneath the glamorous veneer of diplomacy lies the hard fact that it is about talking to some rather rough characters. When Yasser Arafat died, he was shown to be worth many millions of dollars indicating that he was perhaps interested in more than the poor and downtrodden. How much of engagement is really spelled b-r-i-b-e-r-y? And should anyone care?

Tip Jar or Subscribe for $5