Categories: commissions, Saudi Arabia

The Ministry of Defence, the Saudi Arabian National Guard Communications project, and a Lebanese agent

In a recent article on the Exaro News website David Pallister and Frederika Whitehead write about the part of my book which describes the proposed arrangements for agency fees behind one of Britain’s arms deals with Saudi Arabia.   This deal, known as the Saudi Arabian National Guard Communications project, or SANGCOM for short, has been in the news recently because it is the subject of an on-going investigation by Britain’s Serious Fraud Office, following allegations which have been reported by Private Eye, Exaro, and the Financial Times.

There are a number of reasons this deal is of interest, three of them being:

  1. The deal commenced thirty-six years ago, in 1978, and has run uninterrupted since then.
  2. Right from the start the deal has been supervised directly by Britain’s Ministry of Defence.
  3. For all but the last four years of the deal, the Commander of the National Guard was Prince Abdullah, who became King of Saudi Arabia in 2005.  The National Guard is now commanded by one of his sons.

On this website are now published declassified official documents which reveal how, back in 1976, the Ministry of Defence dealt with the question of agency fees the then prime contractor, Cable & Wireless, proposed to pay and include in the contract price.

Document 2 shows that Lester Suffield, who was Head of Defence Sales at the time, proposed to the Permanent Secretary, Frank Cooper, that total agency fees of 15 per cent for three companies should be included in the contract price.   Document 3 shows Cooper agreed.   Document 1, a draft of document 2, shows what some Ministry of Defence officials believed the purpose of the proposed agency fees were.  The document says they were for services which ‘although described as “technical consultancy”, amounts in practice to the exertion of influence to sway decisions in favour of the client’.

These three documents have been published before.   However, on this website is a document that reveals, for the first time, who was the manager of the Engineering and Trading Operations Company Beirut, due to receive 10 per cent of the contract price.   Document 4 shows this was Mahmoud Fustok, a Lebanese man (now deceased) who was the brother-in-law (see here and here (paragraph 6-24)) of Prince Abdullah, then Commander of the National Guard.

You can find more detail about the history of Britain’s dealings with the Saudi Arabian National Guard in my book.

Comments are closed.