Monday, December 18, 2006

Dirtier and dirtier

The story of the UK's turning a blind eye to corruption by pulling the plug on an investigation into massive corruption by BAE in arms deals with Saudi Arabia is getting dirtier and dirtier, with the Independent reporting that despite efforts to dump the blame on the Ministry of Defence and the Foreign Office, the pressure to kill the investigation came from Downing Street. This is a clear case of political interference by a Prime Minister in a criminal investigation - anathema in a democracy which supposedly respects the rule of law. But it gets worse - much worse:

One senior figure who had been helping the SFO said the investigation's security had been repeatedly compromised. "I was told by detectives that the probe was being bugged. They had reached this conclusion because highly confidential information on the inquiry had been reaching outside parties."

Of course, any inquiry into this would also likely be killed by Blair to protect his mates - that is if it wasn't the British intelligence services doing it in the first place.

Meanwhile, there are also concerns that the British government's actions have violated international law - specifically the OECD Convention on Combating Bribery of Foreign Public Officials in International Business Transactions. Blair's excuse for killing the investigation was "national security". But Article 5 of the Convention, to which the UK is a signatory and which is incorporated into British law, states:

Investigation and prosecution of the bribery of a foreign public official shall be subject to the applicable rules and principles of each Party. They shall not be influenced by considerations of national economic interest, the potential effect upon relations with another State or the identity of the natural or legal persons involved.

(Emphasis added)

Several NGOs are reportedly planning to mount a judicial review on these grounds, and the British government is also likely to be called to account before the OECD's anti-bribery working party next month. Hopefully this will force them to restart the investigation, and uphold the rule of law rather than the privilege of the rich and powerful.