Government places BAE Systems above the law

14 December 2006

Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) has heavily criticised a decision to curtail an investigation by the Serious Fraud Office into BAE Systems, the UK's biggest arms company. The Government today announced that the investigation was being dropped, adding that it would otherwise last for a further eighteen months.

CAAT spokesperson Nicholas Gilby said:

"The people of the UK do not benefit when ministers give in to bullying. As with other criminal investigations, this inquiry should have been allowed to run its course. BAE Systems has been placed above the law. The requirements of the brutal Saudi regime have been put ahead of the British public interest. This outrageous decision demonstrates the huge influence of arms companies and arms deals within Government."

ENDS

For further information or an interview please contact CAAT's Media Co-ordinator, Symon Hill on 020 7281 0297 or email media(at)caat·org·uk.

Notes

1. Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) works for the reduction and ultimate abolition of the international arms trade.

2. Since 2003, the Serious Fraud Office has been investigating BAE Systems' dealings with Saudi Arabia. The inquiry has broadened to include matters relating to Chile, Romania, South Africa and Tanzania. BAE Systems has denied all allegations of corruption and stated that it is co-operating with the inquiry.

3. In December 2005, it was announced that Saudi Arabia had agreed a multibillion pound deal to buy Eurofighter jets from BAE Systems. In November 2006, it was reported that the Saudi authorities had suspended talks on the deal due to the investigation by the Serious Fraud Office.

4. The suggestion that the cancellation of the Eurofighter deal with Saudi Arabia would threaten 50,000 British jobs has appeared several times in the media since 27th November 2006. On 8th December 2006, a group of NGOs including CAAT wrote to the Trade and Industry Secretary and described this claim as "pure fantasy". They quoted a report commissioned by the Eurofighter PR and Communications Office and published on 16th June 2006. It is entitled The Industrial and Economic Benefits of the Eurofighter Typhoon and was written by Professor Keith Hartley of the Centre of Defence Economics at the University of York. The report states that by Eurofighter's own figures, around 11,000 jobs would be created across the whole of Europe, indicating less than 5,000 in the UK.

5. Today (14th December 2006) the Attorney-General announced that the Serious Fraud Office was suspending its investigation. The Solicitor-General later added that the investigation is likely to have lasted a further eighteen months had it continued.

6. CAAT spokespeople are available for interview on this subject.

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