1 February 2010
Campaigners welcome arrest of Austrian arms lobbyist
Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) welcomes the news that the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) has charged Count Alfons Mensdorff-Pouilly with making illegal payments to officials in central and eastern Europe in connection with proposed BAE arms sales.
The Count, who owns property in the UK, was charged at Highbury Magistrates Court on Friday 29 January and remanded for a week.
He was charged under the 1906 Prevention of Corruption Act of conspiring with others to give or agree to give corrupt payments to officials and other agents of governments, including the Czech Republic, Hungary and Austria, as inducements or rewards for securing arms deals, namely SAAB/Gripen fighter jets by BAE Systems, between January 2002 and December 2008.
The Attorney General, Lady Scotland, must now decide whether she should use the power given under the 1906 act to halt the case. The Count is next due in court on Friday 5 February.
Kaye Stearman, spokesperson for CAAT says:
The SFO Director, Richard Alderman, has taken a first step by charging Alfons Mensdorff-Pouilly. We hope that Lady Scotland will not stop the case from proceeding. It is time that the truth around BAE's activities came out in court.
In October 2009 the SFO announced that it would prosecute BAE Systems on charges of corruption and false accounting in relation to its arms deals with the Czech Republic, Romania, South Africa and Tanzania.
The SFO began drawing up the legal papers for the recommended prosecution against BAE on 1 October 2009, following its six-year investigation into alleged bribery in BAE arms deals with several countries (Chile, Czech Republic, Qatar, Romania, South Africa and Tanzania). BAE is alleged to have paid bribes, often in the form of commissions to "advisers" on the deals, to clinch the sales.
The SFO initially gave BAE a deadline of 30 September 2009 to agree a "plea bargain" offered by the SFO, under which BAE would plead guilty to some charges and pay a fine, reportedly in the region of £300-500 million. BAE denies any wrongdoing.
In December 2006 the SFO dropped its corruption investigations into BAE's arms sales to Saudi Arabia, following pressure from BAE and the Saudi authorities and a direct intervention from then Prime Minister Tony Blair. The decision was subject to severe criticism and prompted CAAT and The Corner House to launch a Judicial Review of the decision. In April 2008, the High Court ruled that the SFO Director had acted unlawfully by stopping the investigation - a decision subsequently overturned by the House of Lords.
For further comment please contact CAAT's Press Co-ordinator on 020 7281 0297 or 07990 673 232 or email press(at)caat·org·uk.
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. Around 80% of CAAT's funding comes from individual supporters.
2. Read more about Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT)and Corner House's Judicial Review.