After my musings on tax earlier this week, my thoughts have turned naturally enough to PEPs. Heavens, no – this is not the first time I have thought about these people. (Actually, I was about to call them “these naughty people” but that’s a bit unfair – the vast majority of PEPs, I am sure, are simply lovely people doing a worthwhile job for little recompense. Well, most of them. OK, some of them. Well, maybe one or two. Right, so that’s Kofi Annan and Nelson Mandela.) What we are actually interested in is the naughty PEPs – those who use their positions of authority, influence and access to pilfer the public purse and advance their own interests. And what I’ve been thinking about is where to find them.
What is interesting – and perhaps entirely predictable – is that while such people protest about their love for their country and their loyalty to it, they very rarely live there. This is generally because – thanks to the aforementioned pilfering – these countries are often pretty miserable places to live, with limited public services, inefficient administrations, crumbling buildings and populations rumbling with hunger and discontent. And so – like Teodorín Obiang of Equatorial Guinea and Denis Christel Sassou Nguesso of Congo – they skedaddle overseas to somewhere much more pleasant. They both chose Paris, as did the late Omar Bongo before them – his son Ali went to La Sorbonne and married a Frenchwoman, so extensive is the Bongo Francophilia. But all of these countries have colonial ties to France, and so their leaders feel welcomed there. PEPs flock to the UK too, but from countries with links to our former empire – like Nigeria, Egypt and India.
And now of course we have the new wave of PEPs – those that have no particular link to anywhere, and so choose their destination purely on the services it provides (you know whereof I speak – and I don’t mean massage), and the material luxuries it can offer. And in this vein, London is proving catnip to the latest round of corrupt PEPs from Russia, Saudi Arabia and China. I tell you, darling, it’s hell trying to get a parking space within a block of Harrods these days – the chauffeur just has to drive round and round.