Guest post: If you have the connections or cash

Originally a comment by lorn on Saudi Arabia has expressed “surprise and dismay”.

Saudi Arabia is well acquainted with duplicity. Many publicly devout men have a wet bar, mistresses, and engage in decidedly unislamic activities behind closed doors. They also are quite willing to lavish huge sums of money to smooth over discrepancies and conflicts.

As a matter of policy they have a very generous welfare state to help smooth things out.

I had a job offer there and the list of things allowed in the contractors’ compound was slightly more libertine than what is allowed in most US red light districts. The understanding was that none of this was done, or spoken of, in public and taking it over the fence would subject you to punishment up to and including death. As long as one of the main clans doesn’t object, western contract employees are routinely given an opportunity to flee the country after you pay a $100,000 to $500,000 fine.

A friend accused of off compound excesses was dragged into a police station, given a light thrashing and threatened with death. The contractor quietly paid $150,000 and the man found that after another questioning the door to his cell was left ajar. Taking advantage of this he slipped past a police officer who seemed deeply distracted by paperwork and out the front door where he found a friendly but insistent taxi driver who insisted he get in. He was driven to the airport where he was drive past customs and directly to the boarding ladder. He was the last person to board an airliner that had been delayed. Once in the US he learned he had been declared persona non grata by SA and if he ever went back he would be beheaded.

It is clear that SA might be hell for the poor who are unwilling to comply, or work very hard to keep their non-compliance under wraps. But if you have the connections or cash, the rules, or at least the punishment, might be sidestepped.



  1. says

    I’ve worked in SA, too, and what you describe matches my experience.

    Also, there is Bahrain and Qatar – the wealthy just go to the airport and travel to where they can cut loose. When they’re at home, they can pretend to be pious muslims or hide in their compounds (just like the wealthy and powerful everywhere, in other words!) My accountant used to have a client that was a Saudi prince, who had him manage his US cash. Whenever he got to the US for whatever reason he’d fly out to Las Vegas and wire for $150,000 which he’d blow on “BBB” – booze, blow, and babes.

    Religious hypocrisy is nothing new. Nor is fawning over the wealthy and powerful, or the tacit agreement by other wealthy and poweful to ignore the peccadilloes and crimes of their kind. Really, there’s no point in having power or wealth, otherwise, for some people.

  2. lorn says

    It is glaringly obvious that I really need an editor.

    Hypocrisy and selective enforcement based upon wealth and rank, and ability to avoid the ire of those with wealth and rank, are pretty much an open secret in SA.

    The dark side of this is how they handle citizens with little or no power or connections. Palestinian and Pakistani servants have no rights. Females not directly connected to power have only slightly more. If it is taken as an insult to honor, less. Either way there is a good chance they get the worse punishment possible.

    SA nationals ostensibly have rights but If a western contract employee gets caught with a female SA national the westerner might be allowed to quietly disappear but the SA national will face flogging, stoning, beheading, or, if the locals prefer to keep it quiet, a tragic accident or fatal attack by parties unknown. A lot of the later happens, and none of it gets publicized.

  3. nathanaelnerode says

    Is South Africa the most corrupt country in the world, or what?

    Even the Emirs of the Emirates seem to have some sort of sense of “we have to appear less corrupt in order to maintain our position”; the Saudi oligarchy seems to think they’re invincible.

    The corruption, of course, has led to great discontent within Saudi Arabia by anyone with any leftover shred of a moral system whatsoever. And with no clear direction to put that frustrated morality to, the discontent has led to, among other things, Osama bin Laden, al Qaeda, and 9/11.

    Saudi Arabia is a cancer on the world at this point. The ideology bred there is also the ideology which spread to ISIS.

    It’s only propped up by the oil money. Take that away and it’ll all come crashing down.

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