Berlo on bribe

Silvio Berlusconi, who heads Italy's Bunga Bunga Party, has sprung to the defence of former Finmeccanica chief Giuseppe Orsi, saying that bribes and commissions are inescapable realities in global business. The only exaggeration in this absurd report is the Bunga Bunga Party, which does not exist. Berlusconi actually heads the People of Freedom Party. The former prime minister of Italy appears to believe that Orsi, who is in custody, should be set free because he only followed local customs in Indian markets. Setting the Italian law on Orsi, he has said, is "pure masochism". The flight of foreign orders would gut the forex reserves of the government, which he hopes to regain control of in the general elections scheduled to be held 10 days from now. That would hurt Berlo.

What if the middlemen who swung the chopper deal had sold Finmeccanica the very same story — that it was impossible to do business in India without bribing — to get the company to hike commissions? As the money trail unfolds, it will be interesting to see who got how much. Those numbers would reveal whether this is mainly an Indian story, or a story of the global system of defence contracting. Which, as Berlusconi suggests affably, must be oiled with a little cash now and then in order to run smoothly.

However, Berlusconi could just be grandstanding. He has been using television intensively to catch up with the competition. Unfortunately for him, at a crucial moment in the race, the Pope swamped the airwaves by throwing up the reins. An outre statement about bribery — in Italy, where it has been a scourge — may have been a clever ploy to regain the limelight, even on his own media.

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