Well, a while back I promised a post on Bill Shaw, the ArmorGroup country manager who was convicted of bribery in Afghanistan and jailed for two years in Kabul's notorious Pul-i-Charki prison.
I had planned to discuss the definition of "bribery" as it applied to this case, as well as the rather obvious double standard at work in Afghan justice.
Alas, my procrastination has made all of that somewhat irrelevant. The BBC is reporting that Shaw will be released in the next few days and repatriated to the UK as soon as practicable. The official reason is that an appeals court found a "lack of evidence" to sustain the conviction. A secondary reason is the probable behind the scenes pressure from the British embassy that got him sprung early.
In the end, the Karzai administration made their point that it's not only Afghans who are involved in corruption here.* PSC employees are put on notice that the government is keeping a close eye on them, and government functionaries are now terrified of the omnipresent anti-corruption police.
*The are certainly the bulk of it, but Westerners are hardly as clean and pure as they sometimes claim.
I'm hesitant to call what Shaw did "bribery" but there really isn't a better word for it. He claims that he was told the $20,000 USD he paid to the Customs Department was fine for improper licensing. I don't doubt that's what he was told, but I am highly skeptical of his claim of ignorance. He knew perfectly well that it was an off-the-books "service fee." We've all done it, myself included.* I suspect that, if a proper accounting could be made, one would find that millions of unaccounted dollars have changed hands simply to navigate the difficult maze of licensing B6 armored vehicles. Bill simply had the bad luck to be made the poster-child for Karzai's attempt to deflect criticism from his own shortcomings.
*Don't ask what happened to the brown envelope full of cash that was in my safe until a few days ago. It was a "service fee."
Either way, I'm glad he's out. Pul-i-Charki is a hellhole on par with Black Beach Prison in Equitorial Guinea. Most who go in for any length of time are never heard from again. I doubt that even a man reportedly as tough as Bill Shaw could have survived two years in there.
As a side note, despite the "lack of evidence" found by the appeals court, the conviction of Shaw's interpreter and bodyguard was upheld and he's facing another eight months inside. I hope that ArmorGroup won't forget that one of their employees is still in peril. How we treat our local nationals is a good indication of the true nature of a private-security company. ArmorGroup still has an outstanding debt to be paid to Maiwand Limar. Assuming he lives long enough to collect.