… and yet another reason to eat only fair trade Chocolate
Selling weapons is BIG business. It was estimated that in 2004 manufacturers and governments sold a total of $34.75 billion in conventional arms while smaller, shadier operators conducted $7 billion worth of business in the illicit arms trade. These smaller operators, the illegal arms merchants, conduct business where the larger persons cannot – usually dealing in countries under an embargo or with regimes and rebel groups with horrible human rights records. While illegal and unsavory, this business is often conducted with the knowledge and tacit support of the illegal arms merchant’s government. The government is able to exercise influence and have access to resources in the area where the weapons are sold and the arms merchant makes large profits – it’s a win-win situation for everyone involved except for the poor schmuck facing the gun barrel.
Illegal arms merchants are as a whole, somewhat unsavory, to say the least. In order to operate, they have to have no sense of empathy and be completely bereft of morals – in that respect, they are the one element of society that makes lawyers look good. That having been said, even illegal arms merchants have some professional standards. Recently, Haaretz published an article reporting how both sides of the civil war in the Ivory Coast are using profits generated from the cocoa trade to skirt UN sanctions and purchase weapons. Featured in the article were details of illegal arms trade conducted by a former Israeli fighter pilot by the name of Moshe Rothschild.
The article is interesting in that it provides yet another reason to consume only fair trade chocolate, above and beyond the previously covered problematic issue of the slave trade used to cultivate conventional West-African cocoa. Also note worthy is how the article in effect acts as a primer on how not to be an illegal arms merchant. To be sure, Rothschild had the basic necessities to prosper as an illicit arms trader – his service as a fighter pilot allowed him to have access to friends in the Israel Ministry of Defense where a little vitamin P gets you everything, including access to surplus arms and hastily arranged export licenses. His activities also demonstrate the actions of a man with no conscience, so that part’s covered too.
So where did Rothschild go wrong in his conduct as an Illegal Arms Merchant? Here are some of the fundamental rules he didn’t follow.
1. Be Discreet:The Haaretz article is based on a report by an NGO called Global Witness that “exposes the corrupt exploitation of natural resources and international trade systems” and organizes campaigns to address such corruption. The people that wrote the report are basically glorified grad students – if they can find you then so can INTERPOL.
2. Don’t be wanted by INTERPOL or by governments with extradition treaties: In the 90’s Rothschild swung a sweet $500 million deal with the government of Peru for some surplus Soviet fighter jets, helicopters and transport planes from Belarus. The deal was allegedly facilitated by the payment of bribes to several key government officials close to then President Alberto Fujimori. Of course in the heat of the moment, when you see that you have access at the highest levels you may be tempted to dispense with caution and make sloppy (ie traceable) bribes. But it’s South America dude! Countries change governments like Paris Hilton changes boyfriends. Fujimori was subsequently deposed and fled to Japan, members of his government were jailed for accepting bribes and an international arrest warrant was issued against Rothschild. Why? Because his bribe payments were traceable.
3. Don’t be cheap. Use Professionals: Sure your bookeeper Shula in Kfar Sabba is cheap compared to that guy in New York who was turfed from Andersen Cooper because he was caught shtupping the boss’s wife, but when it comes to money laundering, creating complex corporate structures that can’t be easily unraveled by aforementioned grad student volunteers and covering your financial tracks, forget Shula. Pay the little bit extra, bite the bullet (so to speak) and don’t be such a cheap bastard. Cheapness leads to things like your $6 million Swiss bank account being frozen – by the Peruvians of all people. Also, pretty much any financial professional can tell you that Swiss bank accounts no longer provide effective private banking, especially for people engaged in gun running. Here’s a hint – the banking jurisdiction that you want to use is the only Caribbean Island not accountable to the new European Union privacy banking regulations.
4. Don’t sell weapons to groups likely to kill white people: A drone sold to the government of the Ivory Coast was used in an attack against French troops stationed in the country. Nine of them came home in body bags and it made the evening news. The French response was rapid and fierce and the Ivorian air force was obliterated within minutes. When they found out you sold the drone, they blamed you. Payback is a bitch when you help kill white folks. Brown folks dying is no big deal, no one cares (see the rest of Africa). But kaybosh the deal if white victims are involved or your business will suffer.
5. Don’t be a complete douchebag: As an illicit gun merchant, you are already a member in good standing of the uh… doucheoisie. This is a necessity in the business you are in which is basically helping people kill people. But try to have some standards. Selling to both sides of the conflict is good for a chuckle with the boys in the back office, but it will catch up to you and bite you in the ass.
6. Don’t be an even bigger, total, complete douchebag from hell: You are selling guns to people who are paying for them by selling chocolate harvested by slaves? You realize that you are now making innocent chocolate lovers the world over – happy little children, women starved for affection, hungry people looking for a quick pick me up etc. – indirectly complicit in your nasty business. How terrible is that?? And not only that, but unlike gun runners from other countries, when you act like a grade A quality scum ball, it reflects badly not just on you, but everyone in your country because you are from Israel and Israel is judged by a different standard. And you know that!
Thanks asshole. Thanks a lot.