I have always been impressed by the fact that there are levels of corruption as indicated by its degree of ‘sophistication’. It ranges from the cheap direct ‘give’ and ‘take’ at face to face level, say at the counters of immigration, custom, utilities board, land office, licensing authorities or at traffic checkpoints and the like, to the super efficient and sophisticated corporate wizardry, capable of transforming billions from one form to another, from cattle to condos , from one airline to another, from agricultural to premium freehold land bank, from Malay reserve to freehold, from worthless shares at one point to those rocketing through the price ceiling. All it takes really is just a matter of ‘swapping’, ‘conversion’, ‘ reinvesting idle capital’, ‘rebranding’, ‘repackaging’, ‘rezoning’, and all manner of ‘tricks of the trade’, ‘ professionalism’, ‘ legal advice’, and of course ‘ vision’, ‘flair’, ‘entrepreneurship’.
At the highest or sophisticated level, corruption is hardly that, because it assumes the garb of legality. It achieves the perfect combination of abuse, opportunism, indecency, vulgarism with invulnerability against the law. At this level, corruption can even be transformed into saga of success, epitome of financial wizardry, the acts and doing of capitalist prophets. Failing banks can be turned around into the most dominant or premier bank, due to brilliant ‘merger’, ‘take over’ and ‘corporate make over’, ‘bail out’. At this level, great bankers, industrialists are mythologize as Midas whose touch can only turn ugly duckling corporations into gold. With their touch, or the mere grace of their name, boasting of great parentage or siblings, penny shares become punters favorite overnight, appreciating five times or more with the batting of an eye.
If you study and reflect on all the happenings of sophisticated and legal form of corruption, which we cannot even call it by its name due to its legal guise and seamless metamorphosis, we are bound to acknowledge one truth, that is its perpetrators and practitioners are creative people with a special bend of mind. Study this scourge hitting our nation closely and you will be amazed at the spinning, wheeling and dealing going on. As some sociologist had observed corruption ‘greases’ things. It makes things moves smoothly in a devious way. For example, a hypothetical corporation, let’s say ‘National Fed A Lot Corporation’ or ‘ Anyone Can Fly With Easy Subsidy’ , can justify its purchase of premium real estate, or share swap, in terms of 'sound investments' with figures to boot, under dubious circumstances. When pressed for an explanation our hypothetical company is not obliged to divulge all the complex of vested interests involved in this transaction, the various kickbacks, the commissions, the profits, the trade offs, and the like, suffice with a mere ‘ sound investment’.
To handle corruption effectively, we need a higher level of public morality and a higher level of legal standards pertaining to corruption. We need this because vested interests would always work towards a low standard of legality that they can easily outwit or slither out of. We need to be as creative morally and legally as the creative corrupt in our midst!