The Man from FCPA has seen his fair share of bizarre comings and goings in the FCPA and greater anti-corruption enforcement world. Indeed in the wider world of corruption convergence, there is a demonstrable congruity of compliance interests.
Yet even with this keen insight, sometimes situations and events arise which are so out of the ordinary, as to fairly labeled extra-ordinary. Although it came from the world of export control, it certainly has teaching moments for the anti-corruption compliance practitioner. It was the report in the Wall Street Journal that a Hellfire missile, currently one of the most sophisticated and technologically advances weapons in the U.S. Air Force’s arsenal—and the weapon of choice for the Predator drone—was somehow accidently shipped from a NATO training site in Spain to Cuba.
While the missile itself was not armed the WSJ reported, “U.S. officials worry that Cuba would share the sensors and targeting technology inside to nations like China, North Korea or Russia.” I would only add, how about to the highest bidder? The WSJ detailed what investigators discovered regarding the path the missile took to get to Cuba. It was supposed to be shipped to Germany and then back to the U.S. However, somehow in Germany, it was sent to Paris and from there it got to Cuba. At this point, no one—most especially the U.S. government—knows how this occurred.
As several prominent and well-known shipping companies all handled the missile, U.S. regulators are left wondering why so many well-regarded and approved shippers did not review the shipping label and ask questions about where the cargo was going or even why it might be going there. At this point it is not clear if there were bribes paid to divert the weapons shipment, if there was an intentional violation of the U.S. Arms Export Control Act, or it was simply human error. The WSJ quoted an official from Lockheed Martin, the manufacturer of the missile for the following insight, “This is a complicated business, mistakes are inherent in complicated businesses. Mistakes are a part of any human endeavor. Mistakes are made.” That is certainly comforting.