The Serious Fraud Office has announced plans to prosecute BAE Systems, for bribing its way into contracts from Romania to South Africa. For years, BAE Systems has been cashing in on massive trans-national arms deals on dodgy terms but it’s managed to slip away from investigation, not least with the help of government collaboration and a legal team that has strung out negotiations with the SFO over years.
In 2006, Blair slapped down the SFO for investigating a series of BAE deals with Saudi Arabia worth £40billion. Blair claimed it would endanger “national security” – and throw an inconvenient spotlight on defence just a year after the invasion of Iraq.
BAE has spent a long time cosying up to politicians of all stripes to earn its place as the number two defence contractor worldwide. Along with other British arms mainstays Rolls-Royce and AugustaWestland, BAE funds the Parliamentary Armed Forces Scheme, a summer holidays jolly for MPs who want to “gain a broad view of military life” and “make official visits to Service establishments [where] they are normally treated as VIPs of at least two star or Rear Admiral level.” Sir Neil Thorne, ex-Tory MP and the founder of this “educational” programme, was a defence-junket goer himself back in the day and seems to have free run of Portcullis House nowadays.
So who’s making the decision as to whether to go after the weapons behemoth? Step up, Attorney General Baroness Patricia Scotland. Good thing we’ll all trust the Baroness to make the right judgment…