Categories: commissions, corruption, Saudi Arabia

New documents published: British Government discussions about involvement in corruption in Saudi arms deals

A recent article in the Financial Times (republished by Gulf News here) states that the Serious Fraud Office has made arrests during its on-going investigation of the Airbus Group subsidiary GPT Special Project Management Limited. The company is the prime contractor on the Saudi Arabian National Guard Communications (SANGCOM) project, a Government-to-Government arms deal supervised by the British Ministry of Defence.

One claim in the article that caught my eye was that two Ministry of Defence officials had been questioned by the Serious Fraud Office.

Al Yamamah (Britain’s biggest ever arms deal, now called the Saudi British Defence Co-operation Programme) and SANGCOM have both been investigated by the Serious Fraud Office. Both are supervised by the Ministry of Defence. Yet what remains a mystery is what the Ministry of Defence knew about the allegations made, what action if any they took, and why the procedures they have in place appear unable to prevent conduct justifying two Serious Fraud Office investigations.   It is high time there was proper Parliamentary and public scrutiny of how the Ministry of Defence supervises these projects.

For the Ministry of Defence, decisions about the appropriate course of action to take when they may know or suspect dubious behaviour is going on in Britain’s most lucrative arms deals, a major part of a relationship with a key ally, must be acutely sensitive.

Today on this site I have published a small selection of documents which illustrate the dilemmas officials have faced in the past (including then British Ambassador Willie Morris’s paper about arms sales to Saudi Arabia in the 1970 – which puts the issues with extreme frankness).

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