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Saturday, 6 February 2010

BAE Systems - Government failed

I recall when I worked for Vince Cable MP, that we worked hard on the BAE Systems issue and the continued highlighting of corruption within their aircraft sales to Saudi Arabia and the highly controversial sale of the military radar to poverty-stricken Tanzania.

Well today, finally they seem to have admitted anything but struck a plea bargain of £286million to avoid further investigations on the various corruption charges arising from their dealings overseas.

New Labour pet and former Attorney General Lord Goldsmith has welcomed the deal saying that this sort of plea-bargain is “the best way to work”.   Paying this fine, or even double it is cheap.

BAE has also apparently reached agreement with the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) here in the UK to plead guilty to a breach of duty to keep accounting records.

Although the main part, the £286million will go to the US, then allowing £30million for the UK fine, but with the balance to go to Tanzania as a charitable payment.  How much are they likely to see?

The Guardian reports;
The Serious Fraud Office said in its announcement yesterday that some of the £30m penalty BAE was to hand over in the UK would be "an ex gratia payment for the benefit of the people of Tanzania".
My former boss and now the Liberal Democrats' deputy leader, Vince Cable, said that BAE ­Systems had succeeded in ensuring that key details of its arms deals would remain hidden. "The one positive thing is we have now had an acknowledgement from BAE Systems that unacceptable practices were being conducted. But nobody has been brought to account." He added: "The British government was up to its neck in this whole business. Government ministers were almost certainly fully aware of what was happening."

MPs admitted to mixed feelings about BAE's admission and are still furious that the SFO's own extensive inquiry into the al-Yamamah deal was shut down in 2006, following pressure from the firm and from Saudi officials, who reportedly threatened to withdraw co-operation over security matters. The then attorney general, Lord Goldsmith, cited national security when he announced the inquiry was being abandoned. Blair said he took full responsibility for the decision.

The BBC News website also has a good report of the whole timeline and background.

Liberal Democrat MP Norman Lamb, who has campaigned for corruption charges to be brought against BAE since 2001, said:  “It is a damning indictment of the political interference by the British Government that the Americans have secured admissions by BAE on Al-Yamamah while we allowed them to get away with it.

“I’m pleased that BAE has admitted its wrongdoing in relation to Tanzania and that the people of Tanzania will get some recompense after this outrageously unethical deal.

“However, I’m deeply concerned that there are very serious allegations of corruption that are not being pursued. There is a very serious question mark over why there has been this apparent capitulation when allegations against individuals and the company were so serious.”
My final point is this, has the British Government accepted this plea bargain so in their mind it will draw a line under it, and Gordon Brown gets another small amount of money that he can put towards the UK's massive overdraft?  Or in the Government's mind has justice been done?

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