District Judge Caroline Tubbs today gave permission for the plea bargain settlement agreed between the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) and BAE Systems to be heard at Southwark Crown Court in London on Monday 20 December. At this unprecedented hearing a judge will be asked to confirm the final settlement.
The single criminal offence against BAE presented by an SFO lawyer is that:
Between 01/01/1999 and 31/12/2005 at . . ., being an officer of British Aerospace Defence Systems Limited, knowingly and wilfully authorised default to be made by the company in that it failed to keep accounting records which were sufficient to show and explain the company's transactions. Contrary to section 221 (5) and (6) of and Schedule 24 to the Companies Act 1985.
When asked how BAE pleaded to this charge by Judge Tubbs, a lawyer acting for BAE said simply "guilty", and declined to add anything further.
Under the plea bargain announced in February 2010, which related to BAE's 1999 military radar sale to Tanzania, the company agreed to pay a sum of up to £30 million. The SFO had been investigating alleged corruption in BAE's sales to the Czech Republic, Romania and South Africa as well as Tanzania.
There was no mention by the SFO at the hearing of a request by Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) and The Corner House to bring to the Court’s attention its apparent undertaking as part of the plea bargain never to prosecute any individual in future if doing so involves alleging BAE Systems was guilty of corruption.
Sarah Sexton of The Corner House said:
We remain deeply concerned about the terms of the plea bargain that the SFO has struck with BAE and hope that all will be revealed in Court next month.
Kaye Stearman of Campaign Against Arms Trade said:
The hearing date is so close to Christmas that, in the hackneyed phrase, this will be a good day to bury bad news. Yet there is still much about this whole sorry saga that the public deserves to know.
For further information contact CAAT Media Co-ordinator Kaye Stearman email the press officer or ring 020 7281 0297 or 07990 673 232 or contact The Corner House at 01258 473795.
1. Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) works for the reduction and ultimate abolition of the international arms trade together with progressive demilitarisation within arms producing countries. The Corner House aims to support democratic and community movements for environmental and social justice through analysis, research and advocacy.
2. The Magisrate agreed to the SFO's request that the word "company" be replaced with "corporation" in the charge.
3. In their letter of 19 November to SFO Director Richard Alderman the two groups state:
We remain deeply concerned about the terms of the plea bargain that the SFO has struck with BAE. ...you disclosed that:
"BAe requested an undertaking form [sic] the SFO that in any future proceedings (to which BAe was not a party) the prosecution would not allege that the company was guilty of corruption."
Despite repeated requests, the SFO has not released further details of this undertaking.
4. Further information about BAE's radar deal with Tanzania can be found here.
5. More information on the SFO's plea bargain with BAE and the Legal challenge brought by CAAT and The Corner House can found here.