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Red flags for arms trade corruption


  • Samuel Perlo-Freeman

    (Campaign Against Arms Trade, London, United Kingdom)


The international arms trade is highly prone to corruption. Reasons for this include the size and technical complexity of deals, the secrecy and lack of transparency surrounding the trade and the broader military sector, and the crowded nature of the arms trade where exporting nations and companies are often desperate to make sales to maintain their business and technological capabilities. But which arms deals are most likely to be corrupt? This article considers some of the “red flags” for corruption in the arms trade, including those relating to the buyer, those relating to the seller, and those relating to the deal itself, most notably the use of agents or intermediaries, and the role of offsets. The article also argues that corruption in the arms trade is a function of its very close connection with political power in both the buyer and seller country. Major arms deals are frequently regarded as being of strategic political importance by exporting governments, while opportunities for political finance are often a motivating factor for corruption for both buyers and sellers.

Suggested Citation

  • Samuel Perlo-Freeman, 2020. "Red flags for arms trade corruption," Economics of Peace and Security Journal, EPS Publishing, vol. 15(1), pages 5-19, April.
  • Handle: RePEc:epc:journl:v:15:y:2020:i:1:p:5-19
    DOI: 10.15355/epsj.15.1.5

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    More about this item


    Arms trade; corruption;

    JEL classification:

    • D74 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Conflict; Conflict Resolution; Alliances; Revolutions
    • H56 - Public Economics - - National Government Expenditures and Related Policies - - - National Security and War


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