UK govt in fix over bribery scandal

The British government is facing a potentially explosive decision over whether or not to block a criminal investigation into a new bribery scandal.

London: The British government is facing a
potentially explosive decision over whether or not to block a
criminal investigation into a new bribery scandal involving a
two billion pounds contract to provide communications and
cyber warfare capabilities to Saudi Arabia.

Dominic Grieve, the attorney-general, will have to decide
whether to intervene in an inquiry concerning the payment of
millions of pounds in alleged bribes from a British defence
firm to the Saudi royal family, according to The Sunday Times.

He is to consider whether the investigation by the Serious
Fraud Office (SFO) into a two billion pounds contract to
provide communications and cyberwarfare capability to Saudi
Arabia is in the public interest.

According to the report, Grieve has been briefed on the
case after officials at the SFO traced secret payments from
the defence firm into a bank account in Switzerland controlled
by a member of the Saudi royal family.

The Times said emails seen by it reveal staff at the
company raised concerns with their bosses that the payments
siphoned through offshore firms were illegal, the report said.

The latest SFO investigations centre on a 2 billion pounds
contract awarded by the Ministry of Defence to GPT, a British
subsidiary of EADS, Europe`s biggest aerospace defence
company.

The contract will modernise the satellite, radio and
intranet systems of the Saudi royal palaces and National
Guard, a force of tens of thousands that in May helped the
Bahraini royal family crush a popular uprising.

The SFO`s inquiry began after a whistleblower told them
that 11.5 million pounds was sent by the firm to two offshore
companies in the Cayman Islands, and then to a Swiss bank
account.

A second whistleblower warned EADS bosses as early as 2008
that the payments "may be illegal... I am flagging up to you a
possible illegal transaction and seeking your guidance", he
wrote.

A colleague told him in a separate email that he should
keep silent about his allegations for fear the company would
lose a 35 billion pounds contract for 179 air tankers with the
US Air Force.

The case echoes the political scandal that hit Tony
Blair`s government when he pulled the plug on a criminal
inquiry into alleged bribes by BAE Systems, the British arms
firm, to the Saudis.

Then the SFO was investigating allegations that millions
of pounds had been paid to a Saudi prince to help BAE clinch a
40 billion pounds contract to sell jets to the kingdom.
Downing Street killed off the investigation after the
Saudis threatened to ditch the contract and stop all
co-operation on counterterrorism.

PTI

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