Saturday, February 06, 2010

BAE admits guilt over corrupt arms deals.

There were many of us who were outraged at the time by Tony Blair's decision to directly interfere with a criminal investigation, when he stopped an investigation into the Al-Yamamah deal.

Blair's reasoning, that continued investigation would result in the Saudis refusing to share intelligence with the UK, was outrageous. The notion that companies and country's could avoid criminal culpability by issuing threats went against everything which most people know to be fair and right.

Thankfully, the Americans decided to take the case on and investigate what Blair was refusing to allow the British legal system to look into.

And, in truth, the findings are no great surprise. There was obviously a reason why Blair was so keen for people to stop asking questions.
The arms giant BAE yesterday agreed to pay out almost £300m in penalties, as it finally admitted guilt over its worldwide conduct, in the face of long-running corruption investigations.
For 20 years, the firm refused to accept any wrongdoing, despite mounting evidence of alleged bribes and kickbacks, much of it uncovered by the Guardian.

But BAE yesterday said it would plead guilty to charges of false accounting and making misleading statements, in simultaneous settlement deals with the Serious Fraud Office in the UK and the department of justice in Washington.

The admissions in the US covered BAE's huge £43bn al-Yamamah fighter plane sales to Saudi Arabia and smaller deals in the Czech Republic and elsewhere in central Europe. In the UK, the admissions cover a highly controversial sale of a military radar to poverty-stricken Tanzania, which the development secretary Clare Short said at the time "stank" of corruption, but which the then prime minister, Tony Blair, forced through the cabinet.
The deal with Tanzania was particularly despicable. In this instance Tanzania was sold a £28 million military air traffic control system, which only becomes outrageous when one realises that Tanzania does not have an air force.
Claire Short: "Every way you looked at it, it [the deal] was outrageous and disgraceful. And guess who absolutely insisted on it going through? My dear friend Tony Blair, who absolutely, adamantly, favoured all proposals for arms deals.

"It was an obviously corrupt project. Tanzania didn't need a new military air traffic control, it was out-of-date technology, they didn't have any military aircraft – they needed a civilian air traffic control system and there was a modern, much cheaper one. Everyone talks about good governance in Africa as though it is an African problem, and often the roots of the 'badness' is companies in Europe."
There's no way that Blair will ever issue regret over what he did, the man has simply become incapable of feeling such an emotion.

But, at last, the Americans have revealed what Blair wished to keep hidden: there was corruption involved in those arms deals, even if the details of that corruption will remain hidden.

And I am pleased to see that Tanzania are to be compensated:
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".
It's taken a while, but now that Blair is out of office the light is finally being shone on much of the stuff which he, when in office, worked so hard to keep from public view.

Click here for full article.


daveawayfromhome said...

I'm not sure I understand the point of fining companies, since all they ever do is pass the cost along to their buyers. Some form of punishment needs to be found that actually punishes the companies themselves (and those who run them), not those who buy from it.

Kel said...

Exactly. Were you or I to engage in bribery we would be looking at doing time. Why are these buggers allowed to pay a fine that they will only claw back from either their shareholders or their customers?