I’ve seen some excuses in my time but the latest from the ongoing Serious Fraud Office investigation into BAE’s dealings with the Saudi’s take the absolute biscuit:
Secret payments of millions of pounds from Britain’s biggest arms company have been found in Swiss accounts linked to Wafic Said, a billionaire arms broker for the Saudi Royal family, according to legal sources.
Mr Said refused last night to speak about the allegations. But the discovery presents the biggest potential breakthrough yet achieved in the Serious Fraud Office’s three year investigation into allegations that illegal commissions may have been paid to Saudi royals by BAE Systems.
You got that? BAE are being investigated for allegedly slipping the Saudi royals, who’re already as rich as Croesus, a few backhanders to sweeten the sale of British-made military hardware to one of the most repressive regimes in the world.
But now, get this bit…
Details from the accounts would help to establish whether money was channelled to members of the Saudi ruling clan, and the amounts involved. The development comes amid threats from the company and its chief executive, Mike Turner, that the SFO’s ongoing inquiry threatens to damage the UK economy. He has claimed that the Saudi royal family may take a £6bn contract from BAE and give it to the French instead.
The company wants the SFO to abandon the investigation before the Saudis pull out of the deal for a new fleet of 72 Eurofighter Typhoons.
You fucking what?
Not ‘we’re entirely innocent’ or ‘there is not basis to these allegations is fact’ but don’t arrest it’ll fuck with the economy.
I must remember that one next time I’m dealing with someone who gets caught fiddling the dole – please don’t arrest my client, it’ll fuck with the prfoits at Mr Singh’s convenience store down the road.
It gets better as well…
But the SFO appears determined to focus on the accounts and their links to 68-year-old Mr Said. A billionaire in his own right, he is a friend of Peter Mandelson and has been a donor to the Conservative party.
Well there’s a parcel of the rogues if ever there was one. Mandelson and the Tories? Who would have ever thought it possible?
And guess what?
A series of British newspapers were briefed that the latest Saudi contract to buy Eurofighters was in danger and that the SFO should “put up or shut up”.
Noooo. You don’t say! I wonder which newspapers that might be?
Bribe row threat to 50,000 jobs
FIFTY thousand British jobs could be lost within days because of a bribes row with Saudi Arabia, a defence boss warned last night.
The Saudis are threatening to ditch an £11billion contract to buy British jet fighters — and give the order to France.
The Arabs are furious over an investigation into an alleged £60million slush fund, said to have been set up by BAE Systems to bribe the Saudi royal family.
The probe by the Serious Fraud Office has lasted three years.
BAE boss Mike Turner warned last night that the contract for 72 Eurofighter Typhoon jets could be lost.
He fears the Saudis will choose French Rafale planes instead.
Mr Turner said: “This has been going on long enough. The risk is thousands of jobs will go to France instead of Britain.
“This is not just a matter of trade. Saudi Arabia is an important ally.
“The Typhoon is better than the Rafale. We don’t bribe people and we never have.”
The slush fund allegations are fiercely denied on both sides.
The contract secures 9,000 jobs at Warton, Lancashire, and 40,000 at supply companies.
And, of course…
Lost jobs, a threat to security and a Premier too tainted to end this fraud probe
When I was a teenager, my parents lived for a time in Khartoum, the capital of Sudan. The most notable of the relatively few amenities on offer was the Sudan Club, a colonial building with some tennis courts, a swimming pool and a rudimentary bar serving the poisonous local beer.
I would occasionally encounter, either at the bar or the pool, a cheerful Englishman in his mid-30s. He was a salesman for British Aerospace and made monthly visits to the Sudan in an endeavour to sell planes to the government…
Fuck me, it’s no wonder that Private Eye refers to you as Peter O’Bore, just get to the fucking point, will you…
It was firmly believed in Khartoum — I have no means of knowing whether this was genuinely the case — that the Sudanese Minister of Aviation doubled up as the local agent for Boeing, which was bidding for the same contract.
When it was put to the British Aerospace salesman that this might prove an insuperable obstacle, he became indignant. He insisted that the Minister of Aviation was a man of integrity and discernment who would perceive that British planes were vastly superior to the product being peddled by Boeing.
Some 18 months later I chanced to meet the same chap at Inverness Station, where he was eating breakfast. I asked him whether he had sold his planes. He shook his head mournfully. Boeing had won the contract, and he had lost his job.
Right, so this Sudanese guy was as bent as a nine-bob note, now where is this all going?
I have no special knowledge about how the arms trade works, beyond a general impression that it is probably a murky affair.
Like most people, I would prefer that it did not exist at all, and, like most people, I have a hunch that British Aerospace’s standards of conduct would compare pretty favourably to those found among our competitors, be they the French, Americans, Russians or Chinese.
Oh, for fuck’s sake – so the point of all this post-colonial wittering comes down to simple message. Look they’re all as bent as each other, so if we’re bunging the Saudi’s a few million here and there, we’re only doing what everyone else is doing.
After that its all a ‘by the numbers’ exercise…
The Saudis are at last threatening retaliation. As the Daily Mail reveals today, it now looks possible that BAE Systems will lose the massive contract to supply the Saudi airforce with the Typhoon eurofighter, and that France will pick up the business instead.
The move — a direct result of the SFO investigation — would bring about the loss of some 50,000 British manufacturing jobs.
Meanwhile, the rupture with the Saudi government places a giant question mark over whether BAE Systems can survive as an internationally significant defence manufacturer for the medium term.
This strikes at the heart of our national interest. We are in danger of losing highly skilled manufacturing jobs at Rolls Royce in Bristol and at Avionics in Scotland and elsewhere.
Saudi Arabia is are our most important ally in the Middle East. The kingdom provides vital intelligence to the British government in the shadowy fight against al-Qaeda. This intelligence now looks likely to be compromised.
I like that last one, has a nice realpolitik feel to – they might be a bunch of corrupt bastards, but they’re our corrupt bastards.
And then it gets even better…
Tony Blair’s role in all this has been exquisitely characteristic. I am assured that he is extremely sympathetic to the BAE Systems position, and fully grasps what a break with Saudi would mean for his ‘war against terror’.
On a trip to Riyadh last summer, he left his Saudi hosts with the overwhelming impression that there was nothing to worry about and that the SFO investigation would soon be called off.
As so often with Tony Blair, a promise delivered with passionate sincerity in private — and believed at the time by everyone in the room, most of all by the Prime Minister himself — has subsequently turned out to be meaningless.
Whitehall sources say that Tony Blair and his aide Jonathan Powell are so preoccupied by the danger of arrest in the cash for peerages scandal that they have little time to attend to others.
The only person who can bring a halt to the SFO inquiry is the Attorney General, Lord Goldsmith.
Unfortunately the Prime Minister feels he no longer possesses the moral credibility to exert pressure on Goldsmith because of his critical role in making the final decision about prosecution in the cash for honours crisis — as well as the painful allegations that Goldsmith was lent on to give favourable legal advice in the run-up to the Iraq War.
Hang on a second here, just exactly what are we talking about? Blair’s at fault for not putting the kybosh on a criminal investigation into fraud worth a suggested £60 million. This is all your fault Tony, because you’re so preoccupied with keeping you own neck out of a legal noose that you can’t manage to pervert the course of justice for somebody else?
And just when you think it couldn’t get any more stupid…
Many sensible and decent people would take the view that there is no question on the basis of national interest — after all our country’s security and industrial base is under threat here — there is a compelling case for the Attorney General to order the SFO to drop its inquiries.
Really? I think most decent people might think ‘let’s nail the corrupt bastards’, but then I live in the real world not Daily Mail-land.
I’m not sure that’s right. If BAE Systems executives really have engaged in bribery and corruption with Saudi officials, it may well be right to carry on the investigation.
Well that’s real big of you…
However, we should do so in the full knowledge that this country is doing itself massive damage, that our commercial rivals probably all behave worse than us, and that our enemies must be laughing their socks off.
In other words what you really mean is that you think the investigation should be dropped but don’t want to say so outright because that would make you look a completely corrupt tosser.
But nothing that I’ve read about this inquiry suggests that BAE Systems have broken British law. The SFO, despite an incredible three years on the case, has not provided any evidence.
And the SFO ring you up every few weeks to keep you up to date on the latest developments? No evidence provided to a hack does mean no evidence it all, it just measn that wahtever evidence they might have is none of your fucking business – it’s a live investigation, after all, you complete twat.
Even if the accusations being made are true, it seems that any payments being made were made to Saudi citizens on Saudi territory with Saudi money.
It’s extremely hard to see what all this has got to do with the Serious Fraud Office. It may well be that these Saudi practices would not be legal in Britain, but that’s not the point.
There’s a brilliant series of advertisements currently being put out by the HSBC bank which warn us against making assumptions about foreign cultures.
They tell us that other countries apply radically different standards of judgment to that same types of behaviour.
You know, I think that I’m really going to like this next bit…
The Muslim world is generally more comfortable with the practice of paying people who introduce business. That does not mean they are corrupt and open to bribes, simply that they have different values and practices that are as equally valid as our own.
For example, under Islamic sharia law, the practice of paying interest on loans is prohibited. Yet when Arab businessmen come to the UK, they do not refuse to pay interest on loans — they simply accept that is our way of doing business.
Equally, when we wish to do business in their countries, we should accept their local rules.
Failure to do so amounts to the same ‘moral imperialism’ and arrogance which, according to the government minister Margaret Hodge, brought about the calamity of the Iraq War.
So what if the Saudi’s are corrupt. It’s their country and we should make every effort to fit in with their way doing business – when in Rome and all that, what-what.
There is a slight flaw in this line of argument – I don’t suppose that BAE declared this alleged £60 million slush fund to the HM Revenue and Customs, do you?
Remember, it wasn’t bootlegging or murder that brought down Al Capone, but simple tax evasion.
O’Bore’s entire article is astroturfing on the grandest of scale – never mind putting an artificial surface on a football pitch, this bastard’s out to astroturf the fucking Peak District.
The Graun’s coverage raises but two more interesting points:
The MoD, which is negotiating the deal to sell Eurofighters, remained silent.
Hardly a great surprise there. And:
The only person with the power to halt joint SFO-MoD police inquiries is the attorney general, Lord Goldsmith. But Britain is party to an OECD agreement, under which national economic interests are not allowed to stand in the way of efforts to stamp out bribery. Britain criminalised overseas corruption in 2002, but has not yet brought a prosecution.
Never mind the OECD, there is an has been in this country since Anglo-Saxon times, the principle that no one is above the law. That principle was strong enough to take a King to the Executioner’s block and it sure as hell should be strong enough to enable the SFO to complete its investigations unhindered by political pressure, irrespective of what the Saudis, The Sun or the Daily Mail might think.