Friday, February 15, 2008

Perversion of the course of justice

Last year, the British government turned a blind eye to corruption and shut down an investigation into 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. A coalition of NGOs is challenging that decision in the courts, and in the process revealing the full extent of the Saudi aristocracy's threats to preserve their corrupt kickbacks:

Saudi Arabia's rulers threatened to make it easier for terrorists to attack London unless corruption investigations into their arms deals were halted, according to court documents revealed yesterday.

Previously secret files describe how investigators were told they faced "another 7/7" and the loss of "British lives on British streets" if they pressed on with their inquiries and the Saudis carried out their threat to cut off intelligence.

Prince Bandar, the head of the Saudi national security council, and son of the crown prince, was alleged in court to be the man behind the threats to hold back information about suicide bombers and terrorists. He faces accusations that he himself took more than £1bn in secret payments from the arms company BAE.

He was accused in yesterday's high court hearings of flying to London in December 2006 and uttering threats which made the prime minister, Tony Blair, force an end to the Serious Fraud Office investigation into bribery allegations involving Bandar and his family.

There's a name for this: perversion of the course of justice. And in the UK (as in most other jurisdictions), it faces a hefty jail term. And that is exactly what should happen to Prince Bandar.

Not that the British government comes out of this smelling of roses either. Rather than bothering to explain that it is constitutionally improper for the government to interfere in prosecutorial decisions, they simply buckled to the Saudis and pulled the plug - something the judges regard as extraordinary. Of course, they had other considerations as well - namely ensuring that BAE could make future corrupt deals with Saudi Arabia - and that probably made themmore willing to bow to threats.

But what's really extraordinary is that after all this, the UK and US still regard Saudi Arabia as an ally. A top official in the Saudi government explicitly threatens terrorist attacks to preserve his wealth, and they're still considered a friendly country? WTF is going on here?