How do I bribe thee? Let me count the ways.

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In China, “elegant bribery” means using artwork to pay off officials. Photo shows a Tang dynasty copy of a famous work of calligraphy (courtesy of Wikimedia Commons).

I’m leafing through an interesting little book called, How to Pay a Bribe. It’s a compilation of articles written by journalists, lawyers and private investigators. Intended largely for companies operating overseas, the book provides tips on how to avoid being prosecuted for corruption. It’s worthwhile reading for journalists if only because it documents the various forms of state-of-the-art bribery. If there’s food porn, this is corruption porn.

Here’s a titillating quote from an unidentified oil middleman interviewed by the journalist Ken Silverstein;  “You used to give a dictator a suitcase of dollars; now you give a tip on your stock shares, or buy a housing estate from his uncle or mother for ten times it’s worth.”

There are other ways to pay a bribe. Some are tried and true, and have been seen in various places; others are country-specific, like the very discreet “elegant bribery” practiced in China, described more fully below. Here are some of the juiciest examples – both crass and elegant – of the various forms of bribe-giving chronicled in How to Pay a Bribe:

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