Government rolled over to Saudi BAE threats

February 14th, 2008 § 0 comments

“The British government appears to have “rolled over” in response to Saudi pressure to drop an investigation into alleged bribery in arms deals, a senior judge said today.

Two high court judges are reviewing the decision of Robert Wardle, the director of the Serious Fraud Office (SFO), to drop the investigation into allegations of bribery and corruption in contracts between BAE Systems and Saudi Arabia. BAE and a Saudi national security adviser, Prince Bandar, deny the accusations.

There were repeated efforts by the UK ambassador to Saudi Arabia and personal overtures from Tony Blair. Irresistible pressure forced them to drop the prosecution,” Rose said.

The prime minister “stepped over the boundary between what is a permissible exercise and impermissible attempts to influence or dictate a decision on the investigation by expressing his view,” she said. “This is the clearest case of intervention that goes too far.”

Rose said Wardle and Goldsmith both explained in December 2006 that they had decided to drop the investigation after being repeatedly told the move was essential to safeguard national and international security.

She said the real reason for dropping the investigation “was not national security but the commercial situation”, and called the decision unlawful and based on “tainted advice”. Rose argued that there was no imminent risk to the public, and that national security could not be a factor that “trumps all”.

She said Blair and other officials intervened after renewed threats by the Saudi royal family to cancel a proposed order for Eurofighter Typhoon aircraft and withdraw security and intelligence cooperation if the investigation continued. The deal was signed last September.

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