Hands typing on vintage typewriter on wooden table.

May 10

Admiral Lord Nelson is a hero of mine. I also served in the Royal Navy but came nowhere near the exalted heights of this excellent officer.

A biography of his that I am currently reading was written over 200 years ago. I was somewhat shocked by the amount of corruption surrounding the supply of stores to the Navy, particularly in the West Indies, by the traders and bureaucrats. Nelson’s superiors back in England did not initially support his complaints; wonder why?

This paled into minor misdemeanours by the later shenanigans that Nelson faced in what is now Italy. I have been told by expats who used to live there that the bureaucrats and other functionaries will do nothing unless there are some euros handed over with documents for processing.

This type of corruption is defined as where those in power benefit at the expense of those over whom they have power.

You don’t need to be a genius to realise that in Spain corruption is rife. An acquaintance who is in a very senior position with a major national lottery deals with the upper echelons, and once described it to me as ‘systematic and endemic’. Several politicians have been found with their hands in the till. And the finger was pointed at the King emeritus and his son in law, but shoulders are shrugged; it is the way it is.

Corruption has always existed worldwide, and no doubt always will. My view is that unless it directly affects me, I ignore it, on the basis that there is nothing I can do to change the established way.

So, building and work contracts in Spain which enrich the politicians do not directly affect me, only in that I have to pay more tax. Although the meaning has altered over time, the expression ‘Spanish practices’ meant they were ‘deceitful, perfidious and treacherous’.

Mass corruption seems to be cultural and developed over generations. Where it exists, the populace embrace or are appalled by it which is why I flinched as an Englishman when reading about the experiences of Nelson and the recent case in Harrow where builders were allegedly paid for non-existent work whilst profits went to council workers.

For a time during my service in the Navy, the food at a particularly large shore establishment was dire. Some officers were receiving back handers from suppliers of meat etc who were providing inferior products. After the excreta had finished hitting the Expel Air, the nosh improved no end.

Such stories may be shocking to us, but in other cultures it’s the accepted norm.

Organisations exist to monitor the issue worldwide.

The most corrupt countries are in the ‘third world’ category where much of Western aid goes. South America continues the Spanish way of doing things and Russia is particularly bad which may go some way to explaining why their armed forces are not doing such a good job at the moment.

The least corrupt are found in northern Europe. Anglo countries fare well, with New Zealand rated the least corrupt overall. Generally speaking, where the sun shines, greedy eyes glint and pockets are lined.

Fortunately, in my business dealings here I have never been asked to pay or receive a bung and would never want to be in that position. But if someone wants cash in hand for a job, who hasn’t? We are not whiter than white.

Graham Shelton

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