Publication: News Release
Corner House and CAAT Legal Challenge to SFO Dropping of BAE
challenge to decision to drop BAE corruption inquiry
Last night The
Corner House and Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) began a legal challenge to
the decision to drop the investigation into bribery
allegations involving BAE Systems Plc in Saudi Arabia. Lawyers, Leigh Day
& Co, acting on behalf of the two organisations, issued letters to the
Director of the Serious Fraud Office, the Attorney-General and the Prime
Minister laying out their intention to judicially review the
The basis for the legal challenge by the two NGOs is
- The decision was based on considerations of potential damage to relations with Saudi Arabia. This is
expressly forbidden under the OECD's Anti-Bribery
Convention (Article 5);
- The Prime Minister, in his advice on the public
interest to the Attorney-General *1 and the Serious
Fraud Office, improperly took into account
considerations of damage to diplomatic relations;
- The advice given by
the Prime Minister amounted to a direction to discontinue
the investigation, which is an unlawful interference
*2 with the independence of prosecutors under domestic and international
CAAT spokesperson, Nicholas Gilby, said:
"The public expect
BAE Systems to be subject to the same laws as the rest of us. But this decision
shows that they are not. We are confident that this outrageous and unlawful decision will be overturned by the
Susan Hawley, corruption expert at the Corner House,
"This investigation was always a test case of how serious the UK government is about meeting its international
commitments on combating corruption. The government has clearly breached
its obligations under the OECD Convention. If the decision not to investigate is
allowed to stand, international efforts to fight corruption
will be set back by at least a decade. Corrupt
politicians and businesses around the world will be rubbing their hands with
Symon Hill, CAAT 020 7281 0297 or 07920
Susan Hawley, the Corner House 07940 827605
the Corner House 07773 750534
Notes to Editors:
1. The Corner
House is a not-for-profit social and environmental justice group. In 2005 it
brought a successful claim for judicial review against the Department of Trade
and Industry's decision to weaken anti-corruption procedures following lobbying
by BAE Systems and other defence and aerospace companies. See :
Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) works for the reduction and ultimate
abolition of the international arms trade.
3. Article 5 of the OECD
Convention on Combating Bribery of Foreign Public Officials in International
Business Transactions states that "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."
OECD Anti-Bribery Convention was signed in 1997 and came into effect in 1999. It
requires signatories to criminalise the payment of bribes to foreign public
officials in international business transactions.
5. In June 2005, the
OECD Working Group on Bribery evaluated the UK's implementation of the
Convention, and expressed concern at the potential for 'national interest'
considerations to influence the decisions on investigations. The Attorney
General assured the OECD that "none of the considerations prohibited by Article
5 would be taken into account as public interest factors not to
6. CAAT and The Corner House have instructed Richard Stein
and Jamie Beagent at Leigh Day & Co solicitors and barristers David Pannick
QC, Dinah Rose QC and Ben Jaffey of Blackstone Chambers.
7. A copy of the
letter sent to the Serious Fraud Office is attached to this press release. A
response is expected by 2 January. If no satisfactory response is received, CAAT
and the Corner House intend to issue a claim for judicial
*1 In South Africa, the National
Director of Public Prosecutions (NDPP) is equivalent to the UK's
Attorney-General. It seems that in both countries these public watchdogs can be
persuaded to misdirect themselves on the whim of presidents and prime ministers.
Eternal shame on them.
*2 Sounds much like the
interference by the Minister of Justice, Dr Penuell Maduna, into the dropping of
charges of corruption against Thomson-CSF and Jacob Zuma.
standing behind the Minister of Justice is The President. It was President Thabo
Mbeki who ruled that the Special Investigation Unit could not investigate the
It was Mbeki who did the smokey room deal in 1995 with the
Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, John Major, that the UK should get the
lead-in fighter trainer and fighter aircraft deals.
It was Mbeki who did
the smokey room deal in 1995 with the Chancellor of the Federal Republic of
Germany, Helmut Kohl, that the FRG should get the corvette and submarine
Mbeki lied to the South African public that he had received senior
counsels' opinion (from Advocates Frank Kahn SC and Jannie Lubbe SC) that there
were no grounds for an investigation by the SIU. Indeed their clear
recommendation was the opposite.
Mbeki lied again to the South African
public when he claimed he could not remember meeting the top executives of
Thomson-CSF International in Paris on 17 December 1998, in direct contravention
of a host of court-tested documentary evidence.
It was Mbeki who authored
the letter sent in the name and under signature of the Leader of Government
Business in Parliament to the Chairman of SCOPA, Dr Gavin Woods, ridiculing
SCOPA's intention of launching a joint investigation into the Arms Deal, with
the SIU being the fourth investigation agency.
It was Mbeki who, along
with his fellow stooges, the four ministers of MINCOM, sat around a table with
the Auditor-General (and probably also the Public Protector and National
Director of Public Prosecutions), to review the draft Joint Investigation Report
and then order critical deletions and additions from and to it, thereby turning
piece of investigation gelignite into the dampest of squibs.
should be impeached. He is The Big Fish.