“Clean Sweep Ignatius” is a short story by Jeffrey Archer from his 1988 collection A Twist in the Tale. It’s about the new Nigerian Minister of Finance’s mission to eradicate the rampant and extreme financial corruption in the government. It’s a very difficult job that many people have already failed to accomplish. Here’s a summary of “Clean Sweep Ignatius”.
“Clean Sweep Ignatius” Summary
Ignatius Agarbi is appointed Nigeria’s Minister of Finance, the seventeenth person to hold the position in seventeen years. He warns Parliament that he will end all financial corruption in government. He goes largely unnoticed.
He quickly arrests public officials of increasing prominence guilty of corruption, culminating with the Chief of Police, who receives an eighteenth month jail term. He finally gets some recognition; the paper dubs him “Clean Sweep Ignatius”. His own financial dealings are completely above board.
In his second year, the Head of State, General Otobi, calls Ignatius to a meeting. He’s alarmed by Ignatius’s belief that the government still loses millions a year in bribes, probably funneled into Swiss bank accounts. He wants the guilty parties rooted out without any mercy. Ignatius is given a letter of authority from Otobi and granted the rank of Ambassador Plenipotentiary for travel abroad. Otobi also gives him a pistol for protection.
For three months, Ignatius researches his task, sharing his findings with no one. In August, a popular holiday time, he arranges a flight for he and his family to Orlando, Florida. As soon as they arrive, he tells his wife he’s going to New York on business and will rejoin them later.
He flies to New York, changes airports, and takes a flight to Geneva. He finds inconspicuous accommodations and sleeps well. In the morning, he looks over his list of banks from his research. He books a meeting with the chairman of the closest one, Mr. Gerber, for noon.
Ignatius arrives with a tattered briefcase. An assistant brings him up to Mr. Gerber’s office. They greet each other and sit, making a little small talk while a young woman serves coffee. When she leaves, Ignatius gets to his business.
“Clean Sweep Ignatius” Summary, Cont’d
He’s on assignment from his Head of State to find the Nigerian citizens with secret Swiss accounts. He produces his letter of authority from Otobi. Mr. Gerber reads it then informs Ignatius that, unfortunately, the letter and the authority he holds from his government make no difference when it comes to bank policy—all client information is completely confidential.
Ignatius offers the bank all future transactions between his government and Switzerland, but is again refused. He threatens to have the Ambassador in Bern lodge an official complaint with the Swiss Foreign Office, but Gerber remains steadfast in his refusal to divulge any information.
Ignatius continues to pressure Gerber—all future trade with Swiss nationals will be halted, all contracts in negotiation are in jeopardy, the embassy in Bern will be closed and the Swiss ambassador in Lagos will be declared persona non grata. He will hold a conference in London making the world aware of Nigeria’s displeasure with this bank. The negative publicity will, no doubt, cost him many clients.
Gerber is surprised by Ignatius’s intensity but assures him there’s nothing he can do—the bank’s commitment to confidentiality is nonnegotiable.
Ignatius is left with no choice and he rises. Assuming the meeting is over, Gerber extends his hand. Ignatius pulls out the revolver and presses it against Gerber’s head. If he isn’t given the name of every Nigerian with a Swiss account he will shoot Gerber and then his terrified assistant, who stands nearby. He orders the assistant to get the information or the chairman is dead.
The assistant asks Gerber if he should comply. Gerber says no. Ignatius prepares to fire. Sweat pours off Gerber’s face and the assistant turns away.
Pleased, Ignatius sits down and puts the pistol away. He puts his briefcase on the desk and opens it, revealing neat stacks of hundred dollar bills. Gerber estimates it’s about five million. Ignatius asks how to open an account.
I hope this summary of “Clean Sweep Ignatius” by Jeffrey Archer was helpful.