BAE called to account over corruption
BAE Systems, Britain’s biggest arms manufacturer, is to be prosecuted on corruption charges.
The Serious Fraud Office (SFO) has said it plans to take BAE to court over alleged bribes paid in Eastern Europe and Africa.
Ricard Alderman, SFO director, said the SFO “intends to seek the attorney general’s consent to prosecute BAE Systems for offences relating to overseas corruption and will prepare its papers to be submitted to the attorney when the SFO considers it is ready to proceed”.
BAE has repeatedly dodged SFO attempts at prosecution, and now the firm has missed the SFO’s deadline to negotiate a plea agreement over the alleged bribes, the SFO has decided to get tough.
A successful prosecution would dent BAE’s reputation and hamper its international operations.
Anti-corruption and peace campaigners have welcomed the SFO’s decision to prosecute.
Symon Hill, former Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT) press officer, said: “BAE’s behaviour in the past, and the government’s attitude towards it, have sent out a clear message that the rich and powerful – and arms dealers in particular – are above the law.
“In 2006, BAE and the Saudi regime lobbied Tony Blair to bully the SFO into dropping an investigation into BAE’s Saudi arms deals.
“When CAAT and The Corner House took the government to court over this incident, we won, with the judges describing the Saudi regime’s pressure on Britain as a ‘successful attempt by a foreign government to pervert the course of justice in the UK’.”
Chandrashekhar Krishnan, executive director of Transparency International UK, said: “We welcome this robust action by the SFO and now expect the attorney General to consent to a prosecution.
“It sends an important wider message to UK plc that bribery does not pay.”
BAE shares dropped 4% after the SFO’s announcement, wiping £500 million off the company’s value.