UK Liberty

More on the alleged BAE bribes

Posted in rule of law by ukliberty on June 8, 2007

The BBC:

The attorney general has denied claims he concealed from an international anti-bribery watchdog the existence of secret payments to a Saudi prince.

The Guardian claims that Lord Goldsmith hid details from the OECD of payments from BAE Systems to ex-Saudi ambassador to the US, Prince Bandar bin Sultan.

Lord Goldsmith told the BBC the claims were “absolutely untrue”.

Asked about the payments, Lord Goldsmith told BBC News: “I am not going into the detail of the individual allegations.

“The reason is that the Ministry of Defence, which is the responsible department, regard the United Kingdom as being bound by confidentiality provisions.

“It is not for me to break those – still less, as the Ministry of Defence say, if going into detail about certain matters would cause the very risk to national security which caused the director of the Serious Fraud Office to bring this investigation to an end.”

On Thursday Prime Minister Tony Blair declined to comment on the payments.

But he said that if the SFO investigation into BAE had not been dropped, it would have led to “the complete wreckage of a vital strategic relationship and the loss of thousands of British jobs”.

Lord Goldsmith said the reasons for the investigation being halted had been made clear.

“The director of the Serious Fraud Office who made that decision has made those absolutely plain.

“His reasons were because of the serious risk to national security on the advice of those whose job it is to care about the interests of people in this country and their lives.”

Here’s the Guardian:

The prime minister refused to be drawn on the details of the Guardian story and reiterated the diplomatic and business arguments for calling an end to the corruption probe.
“I’m not going to comment on the individual allegations and a lot of this relates to things that go back to the 1980s,” he said. “This investigation, if it had gone ahead, would have involved the most serious allegations and investigation being made of the Saudi royal family and my job is to give advice as to whether that is a sensible thing in circumstances where I don’t believe the investigation would have led to anywhere except to the complete wreckage of a vital interest to our country. We would have lost thousands, thousands of British jobs.”

Mr Blair’s official spokesman said: “In terms of the allegations, we are not going to comment on it. It is a matter for others, not for us. It is a fact that there are implications for jobs but it is not the reason why we reached the decision we did … the attorney general looked at this case and decided a successful prosecution was unlikely. The prime minister offered, as is his duty, his assessment of the threat to national security.”

And:

The head of the Serious Fraud Office today took responsibility for the decision to withhold information from an international anti-corruption organisation about the existence of £1bn worth of payments to a Saudi prince.

In a statement, the SFO director, Robert Wardle, said the decision was made by his own organisation “having regard to the need to protect national security”.

The UK is a member of the OECD and a signatory to the OECD Convention on Combating Bribery of Foreign Public Officials in International Business Transactions.

Do you think we have broken the Convention?

The pertinent part is “Article 5 – Enforcement”:

Investigation and prosecution of the bribery of a foreign public official shall be subject to the applicable rules and principles of each Party. They shall not be influenced by considerations of national economic interest, the potential effect upon relations with another State or the identity of the natural or legal persons involved. [my emphasis]

Funnily enough it now seems irrelevant whether or not there were in fact any bribes…

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