The New York Times reported this week that, for more than a decade, the CIA allegedly has been bringing suitcases stuffed with cash to the offices of Afghan president Hamid Karzai (pictured left).
All told, the intelligence agency has paid tens of millions of dollars in a bid for influence, the New York Times said.
To be fair, the CIA has kept foreign officials on the payroll since its inception. And the U.S. buys influence in all sorts of ways, notably with billions in foreign aid. But for the most part, those dollars are publicly accounted for and regulated. That the CIA allegedly paid so much secret money, in a method reminiscent of a John le Carré novel, to the leader of a country that Transparency International ranks among the most corrupt on earth, is troubling to say the least.
In this era of zealous FCPA enforcement, it all begs the question: How can the U.S. government say that businesses cannot pay foreign officials for favorable treatment, if its own employees engage in similarly corrupt acts themselves?
Mark R. Friedman is a contributing editor of the FCPA Blog.