Black Money

Black Money

2009, Economics  -   26 Comments
Ratings: 6.89/10 from 19 users.

Black MoneyIn Black Money, Frontline correspondent Lowell Bergman investigates this shadowy side of international business, shedding light on multinational companies that have routinely made secret payments -- often referred to as "black money" -- to win billions in business. "The thing about black money is you can claim it's being used for all kinds of things," the British reporter David Leigh tells Bergman. "You get pots of black money that nobody sees, nobody has to account for, ... you can do anything you like with. Mostly what happens with black money is people steal it because they can."

Leigh knows. In his groundbreaking reporting for The Guardian newspaper, he helped uncover one of the biggest and most complicated cases currently under investigation -- a story involving a British aerospace giant, the Saudi royal family, and an $80 billion international arms deal known as Al Yamamah, or "The Dove" in Arabic. "If there was one person who was the main man behind this arms deal, it turned out it was the U.S. ambassador, Prince Bandar bin Sultan," says Leigh.

It all started back in 1985, when the charismatic Prince Bandar was put in charge of acquiring new fighter jets for the Saudi Arabian air force. The Israeli lobby in Congress reportedly stood in the way of the United States making a deal with the Saudis, so President Ronald Reagan sent Bandar to the British. The prince approached a willing Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, and they sealed the massive deal between the United Kingdom, BAE Systems (formerly British Aerospace) and the Royal Saudi Air Force.

Rumors swirled that billions in bribes had changed hands to secure the deal, but British officials denied wrongdoing. "Of course there is suspicion, and of course people are entitled to be suspicious," says Lord Timothy Bell, who was involved in the deal from the beginning on behalf of the Thatcher government. "But as far as I'm concerned, if the British government ... and the Saudi government reached a sovereign agreement over an arms contract that resulted in a tremendous number of jobs in Britain, a great deal of wealth creation in Britain, ... and enabled Saudi Arabians to defend themselves, ... I think that's a jolly good contract."

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26 Comments / User Reviews

  1. titus

    @ 34:38 Is the face I make when someone has caught me out and I need time to think of an answer... credit to Blair, he is good at what he does.(Ironic sarcasm implied)

  2. Jo McKay

    Must have watched this before...but was a good re-wind...I enjoyed how the Saudi Prince justified corruption. The reality that US Justice is leavening heavy fines on the biggest corporations for Bribing foreign governments is both heartening and an oxi-moron - who, after all 'owns' our elected officials... sigh

  3. Yabaluri Goutham

    Technically good doc but overfloated with 2 many interview footages with checking into the root of the title
    'black money"... if you are looking for something deep into how money is transferred and fixed... Please dont look here...

  4. Rainmaker

    Kind of interesting, but actually useless and obviously biased documentary (something you would expect from Frontline). Considering just one-two case studies, it overlooks the whole global corrupted system of politics and modern business practices.

    Why would PBS Frontline create a documentary on Black Money and focus on BAE and the al-Yamamah arms deal ONLY?! While the modern world is flooded with cases of corruption and bribery at all levels you can think of. Simply because someone paid them to rip on BAE - this is no-brainer. Which makes PBS a part of the corrupted system they only slightly covered in "Black Money".

    1. MAllen Documentaires

      Not sure if its being bias or only had enough researched to produce this film, but if Frontline was bias what would be their motive?

  5. Abamovich

    I can't get this to go to full screen.

  6. Martin Mirek

    also, could someone tell who's the interviewer? I think ive seen him in others

  7. Martin Mirek

    @ leon breaux,

    yes its ashame that we've become depedant on them, I don't believe anyone should be given such power because as the saying goes power corrupts absolute

  8. Leon Breaux

    What a great documentary. I rewatched the movie Syriana after seeing it.

    Seems that the world's ruling country is really Saudi Arabia. Watching leaders kowtow to them so they can sell us their oil so we can drive our fat butts around in environment-destroying killing machines called cars is really pathetic. Maybe history will show it's worth it to the oil corporations and the economy, but I doubt it. Stupid, visionless rich people are in charge and this is what we get. They understand money and power and nothing else.

    Cars suck. Oil sucks. Enough said.

    1. Kumamori

      Aye. You know, most people would probably label that utopist, unrealistic, loony or pointless talk because they don't know we don't need cars, massive amounts of oil and tractors. Not nearly as much as they'd like us think.

      The oil business is probably the biggest and most connected business in the world. Western agriculture is dependent on that, meaning that western countries' food production would be reduced over 90 percent if you take away the oil. Watch "Natural World - A Farm for the Future" by Rebecca Hosking if you doubrt me. That doc also gives us one way out of this mainly in the food production area: permaculture.

      Even if we got rid of our oil dependency in agriculture which we can do and should do now if you ask me, there's still the thing that all machines need oil for lubrication. I've honestly no idea farmed bio-oils could replace the black gold, and I know that governments don't want to cut their military budgets and will thus keep it up. You know, war is never won by anyone. Unless you want the kind of shameful victory that conquerors claimed from the Natives in America, for example. I'm european and descendant of an oppressed people, and we bear no grudge towards our former oppressors, and the last thing we want is war, even if we could win. I've just seen from my country's history that oppression and war only prolong the way to natioal happiness. This is why I ask you not to support people who would solve violence with more violence unless it is to actually defend from invaders that cross your border as a thousans man army, not as some provocative false-flags nor even avtual provocations. Instead, root out warmongers in your country and make their way to power as difficult as you legally can. The best way for that is to support smaller politicians who you might be able to trust more: it's the big ones who are often corrupted, not always but often.

  9. Who me? yeah you!


    Perhaps i have misunderstood your intention but you seem a bit harsh towards Silkop.

    "Regardless of what we see on TV, we in this country actually believe and support those who are “real” and not some fake opportunist who think it is “cool” to support a cause..but, instead we believe in living the life with the core believe in contributing to a good cause."

    .....does this bear any reflection to the election of Obama, Bush (Dubya), Clinton, Reagan and to lesser extents all other presidents since JFK? Your own send off "live it, don't fake it" sounds very MTV sponsored by a sporting wear conglomerate.

    Silkop did not say or even suggest that the rich should determine what is cool over the working class. Merely that the rich should choose to be cool for themselves rather than respond to worker class demands ( with cool referring to the sentence prior to the point made.)

    The devil is in the detail dude.


  10. Goodie9000


    i couldn't;t agree with you more...Prince Banda is one hell of "honest crook". ZI hate to say this : but you gotta love this "Royal dishonorable crook" (lol)

  11. Aequitas

    "But were not as bad as you think!" Classic.

  12. Aviar


    It is easy for someone with great wealth to use a social cause to do a "Look at me, Look at how rich I am and supporting a cool cause with millions of dollars" just for them to draw more attention for themselves..... instead of being someone who always contributed either their time or some money to a cause, regardless of their status or wealth? It is great that wealthy people contribute a lot of money or assistance...but, were they all about helping with a cause before they became rich...or is this the latest fad for them to boost their "likability"?

    I believe in the responsibility of all people to help with social causes that are important to them, whether it is as a volunteer or a financial contributor. The people who were supporting a cause, even before becoming rich, are the ones who truly "get it".

  13. Aviar


    The working class makes it possible for the rich to become rich. Where would the rich be without the working class supporting their businesses and making them look good...I can tell you, they will be poor and on the street. The working class is what makes America who it is as a world power....the rich, if they are honest with themselves, normally start as working class and either become rich through actual hard work and innovation, or just plain cheating greed.

    If you are suggesting that someone should first become rich, and then contribute to social matters..then that way of thought reveals the person as a phony. It is even more crazy to actually think the "rich" should determine what is "cool" over the working class, as what you seemingly suggest as well. If that is the way you think, you have just shown your own greedy wannabe rich self with no ounce of intelligence to go with it. Very sad to see so called "social climber wannabes" who have no sense of what it means to be a "real contributor" to society. If you decide to get involved or go hard at helping social matters only after you become rich, then you are just revealing yourself as a shallow opportunist with no real humane bone in your body. Like a shell of a person with no depth.

    That's certainly not American, or what most of us would even claim as truly American.
    Regardless of what we see on TV, we in this country actually believe and support those who are "real" and not some fake opportunist who think it is "cool" to support a cause..but, instead we believe in living the life with the core believe in contributing to a good cause.

    Live it, don't fake it.

  14. ometeotl

    Perhaps a global revolution is needed, one which will put an end to the monetary system. Anything else short of that will be like trimming the toe nails of a dragon. The beast's head must be cut.

  15. silkop

    @Obsidian The corruption is not due to capitalism, More due to the (human) nature.

    What I dislike more than ruthless capitalists are those naive or self-deceiving wannabe world savers whose main contribution is organizing street marches and crying for social security and justice (no doubt this justice has to come at the expense of their oh-so-beloved third-world neighbors, when it comes to the nitty-gritty details).

    I think a reasonable alternative to blood-thirsty capitalism is benevolent capitalism, where people devote themselves to social matters AFTER becoming rich because it's cooler to be rich, powerful and generous than to be just rich and powerful. However, the sense of what's being cool has to come from the rich themselves, not from demands of the "worker class". Basically, the "American dream" style of capitalism is quite a nice idea, and it should be culturally defended from the alternative of crooked corporationism.

  16. silkop

    @HaTe_MaChInE I suspect that what you call "a lot of fun" in politics and perhaps also by the "business is business" phrase is essentially the appeal of playing con games, the appeal of showing other people that you are smarter and more powerful than them, regardless of their own and third parties' well-being. It is the same appeal that draws a street hustler to play his tricks, which draws a criminal to commit crimes (if he can get away with them), which makes teenage computer geeks play "evil genius" games. Something biological no doubt. Maybe the (disappearing) testosterone.

    I have mixed feelings about this. I suppose that being cunning is some stage during political apprenticeship, which can and should be surpassed. I suppose that once you reach a higher level and hold a public office in a civilized nation, and once you attain a certain level of wealth, then you put forward the goal to avoid being classified as a crooky egocentric a--hole who only takes pride in his influence and possessions. I suppose that there are intellectual joys worth pursuing that are beyond what money can buy, for example. But then I see Mr. Bush and his friends and watch the politics of this still most powerful of nations, and that's where I start doubting whether any higher level really exists...

  17. nanner yacey

    if you want to break the law, use 'business' as an excuse!!
    and dont give a damn about anyone else

  18. Obsidian

    "business is business", speaks volumes about the inherent corruption working inside the capitalistic system, indeed the inherent flawed principles of capitalism itself.

  19. HaTe_MaChInE

    I hate if any business takes advantage of someone, but I do enjoy watching how politics really work. Makes me wish more then ever that I was a prince of some oil baring land. I hope I would make just decisions... but either way it looks like a hell of alot of fun.

  20. chris

    What does "Business is Business" mean?

  21. carlos1234

    i agree with hate machine "business is business" and no matter what you do to prevent it business will always find a way to do business....good documantery

  22. HaTe_MaChInE

    Business is Business

  23. silkop

    Well, there are lying crooks and honest crooks. Prince B. seems to be a pretty honest crook.

  24. HaTe_MaChInE

    Thanks Vlatko!