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BAE lobby halts corruption inquiry

George W Bush with Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah

In a remarkable example of arms industry lobbying power, the Attorney General last month halted the long running inquiry by the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) into alleged bribes paid to Saudi officials, just as it was reaching a crucial phase. BAE and the Saudi embassy applied frantic pressure at a time when investigators were on the brink of accessing key Swiss bank accounts. BAE’s links with the prime minister’s office are already legendary and this was supplemented, according to the Guardian newspaper, by ‘a PR campaign headed by Lord Bell which saw MPs from all parties urging the dropping of the investigation, citing fears that jobs would be lost in their constituencies.’

BAE claimed that the Saudis had threatened to cancel the third phase of the Al-Yamamah deal involving 72 Typhoon aircraft worth £6 billion.

All of this has led campaigners such as the Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CATT) to claim that BAE is above the law. As Claire Short MP said: ‘The message it sends to corrupt businessmen is carry on - the government will support you.’

But BAE is not yet in the clear. It still faces ongoing SFO inquiries into alleged bribery in its dealings with Romania, Chile, the Czech Republic, South Africa and Tanzania.


 

 
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