Scotch whisky and caviar were also among items deemed too pricey for official gifts in a recent Cabinet Office transparency report.

By Mike Pomranz
November 02, 2020
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With government and political spending measured by the millions, billions, and even trillions, fighting corruption can feel frustratingly impossible—a topic that’s been especially relevant during the current American election cycle. But over in the United Kingdom, here’s a warning to foreign governments attempting to sway Prime Minister Boris Johnson: Don’t send fancy bottles of wine, they’ll just end up in the trash bin.

Last week, the UK’s Cabinet Office revealed its most recent “transparency data” report which, for Johnson, included 11 gifts that had to be confiscated because they broke the ministerial code—rules intended to fight corruption by preventing politicians from receiving items in excess of £140, or about $180. On the list is an excessively pricy present of wine—sent by the Government of Hungary—with the British newspaper the Independent reporting that the wine will go unopened and is instead earmarked for “disposal.” Despite not being the best-known wine region in the world, Hungary is home to some very nice wineries, so corrupt or not, it’s a shame it had to go to waste.

Credit: NurPhoto / Contributor /Getty Images

And Hungarian officials aren’t the only ones who have had a food or beverage gift rejected by the British government. In the past three months: “Assorted caviar,” Greek olive oil, and even whisky from the Scotch Whisky Association were all listed as being “held by department” (ostensibly also for disposal) after breaking the gift value limit. At the very least, you’d think the Scotch Whisky Association would know better seeing as they are the official trade group for whisky produced in Scotland—which, yes, is still part of the United Kingdom. That said, the value of Scotch has shot up so much recently, maybe they just got their appraisal wrong?

Of course, any (crooked) politician will tell you that the most effective bribes don’t get sent through official government channels—so just as a bottle of Hungarian wine probably won’t change Boris Johnson's decision-making process, confiscating it is likely equivalent to removing a droplet from the corruption ocean. Still, the battle against corruption has to start somewhere, even if it is one assorted caviar gift at a time.