20 April 2007
BAE and Corruption
CAAT and The Corner House lodge full grounds for judicial review of Serious Fraud Office decision to terminate investigation into Saudi arms deal
Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) and The Corner House yesterday lodged the full grounds  for their judicial review of the UK Government's controversial decision in December last year to terminate a Serious Fraud Office investigation into alleged corruption by BAE Systems over its Al Yamamah  arms contract with Saudi Arabia .
The two groups contend that the termination was unlawful in that it breached Britain's undertaking under the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention, which bans the UK from stopping an investigation into alleged bribery on economic grounds, or grounds relating to damage to relations with another country, such as Saudi Arabia.
"The government contended that continuing the investigation would damage national security because it would result in a deterioration in relations with Saudi Arabia", said Nicholas Hildyard of The Corner House. "But the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention expressly forbids consideration of the impact of corruption probes on relations with a foreign state."
The groups also point out that Saudi Arabia is legally-bound by UN Resolutions to supply intelligence relating to terrorism.
"The security arguments do not fly", said CAAT spokesperson Symon Hill. "This is a simple case of Britain breaking the OECD Convention. Otherwise, any country could blackmail the UK into abandoning an uncomfortable bribery probe."
The two groups had delayed lodging their full case for judicial review pending the outcome of parallel proceedings arising from the discovery that BAE had obtained an email containing the groups’ privileged legal advice. On 18 April, Paul Mercer, a consultant hired by BAE to monitor activist groups, was named as the person who supplied BAE with the email. Paul Mercer has now given binding lifelong undertakings to the court promising not to misuse confidential information belonging to CAAT again. Any breach of those undertakings could lead to his committal to prison for contempt of court.
"The resolution of this case has now opened the way for CAAT and The Corner House to pursue their judicial review", said Symon Hill.
1. The full grounds for the judicial review are available here (pdf).
2. Since the 1980s, the UK has supplied fighter aircraft and associated products and support services to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia under a series of very high value arms deals known as "Al Yamamah" ("The Dove"). The aircraft sold to Saudi Arabia under the Al Yamamah deals are all manufactured by BAE. In 2004, the Director of the Serious Fraud Office initiated an investigation into alleged bribery and corruption by BAE in relation to the Al Yamamah deals. In November and December 2006, it was widely reported that the Government of Saudi Arabia had threatened to suspend diplomatic ties with the UK and cancel a further proposed order for 72 Eurofighter Typhoon aircraft if the SFO investigation was not halted.
3. The contract for the current Al Yamamah deal, which involves the sale of Eurofighters, has not yet been signed.
Symon Hill (CAAT)
020 7281 0297 or 07990 673 232
Nicholas Hildyard (The Corner House)
01258 473 795