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How bending the rules for anyone hurts everyone

August 1, 2017

Read the transcript in Spanish, French and English.

In the video, an airport security employee plans to accept money to allow his cousin’s friend, “Paul,” to smuggle materials in a suitcase. The employee thinks the suitcase is full of cell phones and video games. In reality, the suitcase could be filled with anything.

“People who are engaging in corruption have absolutely no principles,” said Louise Shelley, founder and director of the Terrorism, Transnational Crime and Corruption Center (TraCCC) at George Mason University’s School of Public Policy in Virginia.

“There are all sorts of things being smuggled through airports,” like arms, counterfeit medicines that endanger public health, pesticides that are ruining farmland, and illicit wildlife materials like ivory, whose trade is undermining a country’s natural resources and tourism potential.

“What is happening is behind this trade are often very serious criminal organizations that are making a lot of money and are bribing officials. Even if it’s something as small as cell phones, often those cell phones that are being smuggled are counterfeit. And sometimes those cell phones happen to be electronically dangerous because they are made of inferior materials without any regulation,” Shelley said.

She added that while the security employee sees the smuggling as a small act and welcomes some cash for their trouble, the criminals behind the operation are likely making 100 or 1,000 times what they paid for the bribe when the material makes its way to the marketplace. The harm also lies in the fact that a security guard who is ethically compromised could let anything go through at some point. For countries — some more than others — the security risk is especially dire.

“There are some countries where the smuggling is perpetuating conflict for a very long period of time,” she said. Armed factions, terrorists and criminal organizations are “fueled by the smuggling of drugs [and] illegal movement of money. People could be packing money in suitcases and moving it and using it to buy weapons and other things that help expand conflict.” In other places, smuggling undermines the credibility of the government, especially when high-ranking officials are linked.

Shelley said it is very important for people to understand that smuggling is “not just small household goods that they may be using and can be sold at some beneficial price. There are things that are really undermining the sustainability of life and undermining the sustainability of the planet.”

Ask yourself: Are security officials accepting bribes and smuggling goods threatening your safety?

Integrity Starts With You. Join #YLAI For Integrity by taking the pledge at ylai.state.gov/integrity.

Video Transcript


Here comes my cousin’s friend, Paul. Paul and I have a little arrangement. He brings this black suitcase through my security line and I just look away. My fees are reasonable, yet negotiable. It’s just a bunch of small electronic devices, like cell phones and video games that he sells. Nothing that will hurt anybody. As a matter of fact, he sells to people who need these things at a cheaper price. They get the cell phone, I get some extra money. Everybody wins.

Where’s the harm in that?

[TEXT: Bribery and smuggling can threaten your safety.]

[TEXT: Learn “What’s the harm?” at ylai.state.gov/integrity]


Voilà l’ami de mon cousin, Paul. Paul et moi avons un petit arrangement. Il passé cette valise noire par cette ligne de sécurité, et moi je regarde dans l’autre direction. Mes frais sont raisonnables et négociables…Ce sont juste de petits appareils électroniques, tels que des téléphone cellulaires et des jeux vidéo qu’il va vendre. Rien qui fera mal à personne. En fait, il les vend à des gens qui ont besoin de ces choses à un prix moins cher. Ils obtiennent des téléphones, j’obtiens un peu d’argent. Tout le monde est gagnant.

Où est le mal en ça ?

[TEXT: Les pots-de-vin et la contrebande peuvent menacer notre sécurité.]

[TEXT: Apprendre “Où est le mal en ça ?” à ylai.state.gov/integrity]


Ahí viene el amigo de mi primo Paul. Paul y yo tenemos un pequeño acuerdo. Él trae su valija negra y la pasa por mi línea de seguridad y yo me hago que no la veo. Mi honorario es razonable, y negociable. Sólo es un montón de dispositivos electrónicos pequeños, tales como:
teléfonos celulares y videos juegos que él vende. No es algo que le hará daño a alguien. En realidad, él vende esos artículos a personas que los necesitan comprar a un precio más barato. Ellos adquieren sus teléfonos, y yo algo algún dinero extra. Todo el mundo gana.

¿Qué hay de malo en eso?

[TEXT: Los sobornos y el contrabando pueden amenazar nuestra seguridad.]

[TEXT: Aprenda “¿Cuál sería el daño?” En ylai.state.gov/integrity]