Friday, December 15, 2006

Turning a blind eye to corruption

For the past two years, the UK's Serious Fraud Office has been investigating allegations that BAE paid the Saudi royal family hundreds of millions of pounds in bribes to secure a multi-billion pound arms deal in the 80's. Today, the UK's Attorney-General pulled the plug. His reason?

It has been necessary to balance the need to maintain the rule of law against the wider public interest. No weight has been given to commercial interests or to the national economic interest.

And if you believe that, I have a lovely batch of Eurofighter Typhoons to sell you. But it gets worse:

The prime minister and the foreign and defence secretaries have expressed the clear view that continuation of the investigation would cause serious damage to UK/Saudi security, intelligence and diplomatic cooperation, which is likely to have seriously negative consequences for the UK public interest in terms of both national security and our highest priority foreign policy objectives in the Middle East.

Or, to put it another way, the Saudi kleptocrats who could have their funds cut off if the case proceeded threatened to withdraw cooperation in the "war on terror" unless the British government allowed a British corporation to piss all over British law and engage in corrupt and illegal practices. And the Blair government gave in, nakedly interfering to kill a criminal probe (in violation of clear constitutional convention) in order to appease its allies and guarantee the dividends of BAE's wealthy shareholders. Kindof shows you what both parties really care about, doesn't it?


Kleptocrats is right. The scale of the house of Saud's excesses is breathtaking. The king even owns a 747 just to transport his fleet of cars when he holidays abroad. Details of BAE's largesse towards these parasitic bastions of 'freedom' can be found here:

Bribery. Everybody's doin' it, pickin' their nose and chewin' it. It's the National Interest.

Posted by Anonymous : 12/15/2006 10:49:00 PM

The decision is coming in for some stick in Britain, spearheaded by the Liberal Democrats

Just a wider point though - there does seem to be a pretty vicious power struggle going on within Saudi Arabia between Prince Bander bin Sultan (National Security Advisor)and Prince Turki al-Faisal who has just reigned in dramatic fashion as Saudi ambassador in Washington DC. Booman has some interesting details and links.

Maybe Blair and his advisors reconed that handling instability in Ryadh would not be helped by exposure of the corruption networks.

Posted by Edis : 12/16/2006 02:34:00 AM

Little Thatcher... no other way to describe the bastard, on a day when corrupt arms deals with a torturing dictatorship are sanctioned in full daylight, the lies behind the invasion of Iraq and half a million deaths are made explicit, and 2500 post offices are to be closed.

Posted by Anonymous : 12/16/2006 04:03:00 AM

Many, many moons ago I got a job as a lowly leaflet boy for British Aerospace. I went to two arms fairs and handed out leaflets to various passers-by extolling the virtues of the Rapier anti-aircraft missile system. I met several arms salesmen, and without wanting to sound dramatic, I thought the immorality of their trade had clearly entered their souls. They all drank heavily, and were morally dessicated - to my innocent eyes, selling weapons was clearly a Mephistophelean proposition. In a business which covers its immorality in a welter of euphemisms and produces nothing that adds to the sum total of the economic wealth of the planet (to put it crudely, a tank does nothing but be a drain on the state and the taxpayer during its time in service; A tractor produces many times more value than its cost of production over its lifetime) is it really surprising that corruption should lie at the very core of the way it does business? And should it surprise us, given the money to be made in this vastly immoral business, that the canker of this industry should infect the political process of the nations that sell weapons? As Eisenhower warned us, countries never civilianise the military-industrial complex. Rather, it militarises the state.

Posted by Anonymous : 12/18/2006 10:33:00 AM