Murphy's Law: Bribes Always Find A Way

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January 19, 2017: Indonesia has again ordered some AW101 helicopters, this time for military use only. Indonesian anti-corruption officials are going over the new proposal carefully because of previous incidents of bribes paid to sell AW101s. An Indonesian order for the more expensive AW101 VIP model was cancelled in late 2015 after allegations of corruption were made and were apparently true. This is nothing new for Indonesia, which notoriously and persistently corrupt. Many suppliers of high tech equipment to nations with traditions of corruption are willing to cooperate, even if it takes more than one attempt. For example in early 2013 the sale of 12 AW101 helicopters to India was eventually canceled after Indian and Italian investigators found evidence that Italian executives of Finmeccanica (the Italian parent company of Britain based AgustaWestland) found Indian officers and defense officials eager to take a bribe to make the AW101 sale happen. It was later proven that Finmeccanica officials were willing to pay over $30 million in bribes to the corrupt Indian officials. India has been trying to purge the Defense Ministry and the military of corruptible officials since the 1990s and has found corrupt practices remarkably resilient. Finmeccanica was very embarrassed when details of the corruption came out because officially the company, like most Western exporters, officially oppose paying bribes to get a sale. Unfortunately such corruption is common in many parts of the world, especially the Middle East and most of Asia. Expensive weapons, in particular, are often selected mainly on the basis of which supplier will pay the largest bribe.

British AW101s are 15 ton medium transport helicopters. In Britain the army and navy began using AW101s in 2000 and were very satisfied with performance. AW101s normally are used as military transports or for naval search and rescue. Powered by three engines AW101s can carry five tons of cargo or up to twenty passengers. Top speed is 300 kilometers an hour and endurance is about four hours.

The manufacturer also produces a more lavishing equipped (and much more expensive) luxury model for transporting VIPs. These are modified according to customer specifications and now account for over 15 percent of AW101 sales. The sales price often includes multi-year service contracts and crew training, so the price can legitimately vary. Thus the cost of an AW101 can legitimately vary from $30 million to more than twice that. Over 220 AW101s are in use worldwide, and they have an excellent reliability and safety record.

 


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