Thursday, February 02, 2006

Corruption, and moral dilemmas, Part 1

About 10 years ago when I was on a visit to Ukraine, a bright Ukrainian businessman, let's call him Alex, and for the sake of argument a tobacco company executive, invited me for a weekend's hiking to the Carpathian mountains. I had been spending some time in Ukraine on other business, and checking out my family roots etc.

It was a beautifully late warm summer and he had booked rooms in a well-appointed resort hotel. He had been a HR manager in a large tobacco factory in Ukraine which had recently been taken over by a western multinational company. They had fast-tracked formation of a JV without going through normal channels, thanks, apparently, to large bribes slipped to persons in the then Ukrainian President's office, which gave the multinational immediate access and a head start in the Ukrainian market.

The new factory owners saw that Alex was talented, a multi-linguist, charming, and an effective manager. They sent him to North America for management courses, and he was one of the guys leading a new marketing campaign.

We were returning back late on a warm Sunday evening in his company car, which had discrete company logo's on its doors. We'd had a really pleasant break in the mountains, got a little tanned, collected some mushrooms in the forests, and purchased some Hutsul artefacts for me, and a large box of delicious fresh cherries for his wife, in a mountain village. We were both in good spirits.

Out of the blue, as we were driving out of a small town along the way, a DAI'schyk [traffic cop] popped out from behind bushes and waved his baton, summoning us to stop. Alex smiled and said: 'Don't worry, I'll handle this,' and opened his window. The smart-looking DAI'schyk approached and addressed Alex in a formal but correct manner. It was immediately clear that Alex had exceeded the speed limit by just a few KmPH, and was being booked. The DAI'schyk requested Alex get out of the car.

Alex asked him politely if he smoked - to which the policemen replied: 'Yes, naturally'.
Alex asked if he could get his jacket out of the trunk, opened it, took out his briefcase, and went off into the bushes with the DAI'schyk, leaving me, rather worried, in the car.
[To be continued..]

No comments: