BAE Systems has once again failed to answer critics on vital questions of ethics at its Annual General Meeting (AGM) in London today. The Board faced a series of questions from shareholders about allegations of corruption and its risible attempts to appear ethical.
A little over a year ago, in April 2008, that the High Court ruled that the Serious Fraud Office (SFO), acting on the advice of the government, had acted unlawfully by terminating an investigation into BAE's Saudi arms deals in December 2006, following lobbying by BAE and Saudi representatives. The Saudi regime had threatened to cancel an arms deal and withdraw diplomatic and intelligence co-operation. The judges described this as a "successful attempt by a foreign government to pervert the course of justice in the United Kingdom".
Although the SFO investigation was dropped, BAE continues to face investigations in several countries, including Austria, Switzerland and South Africa. At the AGM, former South African MP Andrew Feinstein, who pursued allegations of huge commission payments to "middlemen" after a giant arms deal in 1999, repeatedly questioned BAE Chairman Dick Olver to come clean over the situation. Other questions focused on BAE's concern for human rights in Saudi Arabia, arms sales to India and Pakistan, and job cuts in the UK.
BAE has attempted to clean up its image by commissioning a report on ethics by former Lord Justice Woolf and producing its own Corporate Responsibility (CR) report. CAAT shareholders repeatedly questioned the BAE Board on the implementation and relevance of the Woolf report and the huge gaps in the CR report, together with the hypocrisy of talking about ethics while manufacturing and selling deadly weapons - leading Chairman Dick Olver to defend the company ethos saying "we do what we do".
Before the AGM, supporters of Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) staged a photo stunt "Let's throw the book at BAE". (Photographs available on request.)
CAAT spokesperson Kaye Stearman said:
"BAE 's reports on 'ethics' and 'corporate responsibility' are little more than fairy tales, and not very good ones at that. BAE should not expect talk of ethics to be taken seriously from a company that arms countries in conflict and human rights abusing regimes and that lobbied the UK Government to drop a criminal investigation. We will continue to press for all allegations to be fully investigated by the SFO."
For further comment please contact CAAT's Press Co-ordinator on 020 7281 0297 or 07990 673 232 or email enquiries(at)caat·org·uk.
1.The Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) works for the reduction and ultimate abolition of the international arms trade. 80% of CAAT's funding comes from individual supporters' donations and CAAT is strictly nonviolent in all its work.
2.The Annual General Meeting of BAE Systems took place on 6 May at the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre in London SW1.
3.The judgment of the High Court was handed down on 10 April 2008 by Lord Justice Moses and Mr Justice Sullivan, following a judicial review brought by The Corner House and CAAT.
4.Photographs of CAAT supporters outside the AGM are available on request.