Friday, February 15, 2008

Bribery, Blackmail, and the Big Kahunas

I get so wrapped up in our scandals on this side of the pond, that I lose sight of the scandals on the other side of the pond. Thanks to an email tipster, though, we have the following information about a Sibel Edmonds-type case in the UK.

From Blair used 'irresistible pressure' to halt investigation into BAE-Saudi arms deal by Robert Verkaik, Law Editor, Friday, 15 February 2008:

Tony Blair wrongly influenced due legal process when he used "irresistible pressure" to end the Serious Fraud Office's investigation into alleged bribery and corruption involving arms deals between BAE Systems and Saudi Arabia, it was alleged in the High Court yesterday.

When he was Prime Minister, Mr Blair "stepped over the boundaries of what was permissible" and interfered in the highly sensitive criminal investigation because of threats by the Saudis, said the barrister representing two anti-corruption campaign groups challenging the decision to drop the case.

Our "ally" in the "War on Terror" is threatening the UK -- this is good!

The High Court challenge centres on the decision in December 2006, announced by the Attorney General, Lord Goldsmith, to end the Serious Fraud Office's investigation into the £43bn Al-Yamamah arms deal with Saudi Arabia in 1985, which provided Tornado and Hawk jets and other military equipment.

At the time, the Government had used arguments about national security to justify the decision.

This is the part that resembles the Sibel Edmonds case.

Dinah Rose QC, appearing yesterday for Corner House Research, which campaigns against corruption in international trade, and the Campaign Against Arms, said the real reason for dropping the investigation "was not national security but the commercial situation" and the decision violated the OECD's convention on combatting bribery. The decision was also based on "tainted advice" and was unlawful because the director of the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) had permitted threats, or blackmail, to influence his decision.

Ms Rose said it was taken after renewed threats by the Saudi Arabian royal family that if the investigation continued the Saudis would cancel a proposed order for Eurofighter Typhoon aircraft and withdraw all security and intelligence co-operation with the British Government.

The Saudis would withdraw their assistance in the "War on Terror" -- no big loss? On the contrary, the best thing that could happen for us would be for the Saudis to withdraw their "security and intelligence co-operation" from the "War on Terror" -- after all, the main beneficiaries of their assistance are the terrorists!

She told Lord Justice Moses, sitting with Mr Justice Sullivan at the High Court in London: "These threats were apparently made following BAE's discovery that the SFO was about to obtain access to details of various Swiss bank accounts."

As an aside, Congress periodically holds hearings into corruption in international banking; one such hearing from about a year ago was entitled Offshore Banking, Corruption, and the War on Terrorism, from 03/29/2006. Check it out.

Back to our article:

In a note disclosed to the court, the SFO's assistant director, Helen Garlick, recorded a meeting at which the Attorney General asked for the director's opinion days before the decision was taken to stop the investigation. Ms Garlick said the Attorney General had also asked for her advice, and she described attending a meeting at the Foreign Office where "we had been told that 'British lives on British streets' were at risk". Ms Garlick stated: "If this caused another 7/7 [bomb attacks on London on 7 July 2005] how could we say that our investigation, which at this stage might or might not result in a successful prosecution, was more important?"

In court, Philip Sales QC, appearing for the SFO, said the director had "no choice" but to stop the investigation on national security grounds. He told the judges that the threat from the Saudis "could not be obviated sensibly by other means".

Lord Justice Moses suggested that, in reality, the Saudi threat involved saying that Britain would not be told if the Saudis learnt that someone was going to "blow you up". Mr Sales said the threat of withdrawal of co-operation went wider.

He said the Government had decided that stopping the investigation "was of critical importance to our national security in the light of the Islamist terrorist threat".

"There was no other viable choice available to the director other than to accept, with very great reluctance, that the investigation should be stopped."

In the Sibel Edmonds case, government officials used national security as a reason to gag Edmonds and shut down a case that in fact centered on the criminal conduct of government officials. It involved the arms trade, and many other things, including narcotics and money laundering.

Here we are being told that the UK basically chickened out, afraid that the investigation would have an effect similar to a Mohammed cartoon -- provoking terrorism. I would bet, however, that if the investigation were to continue, we would find a situation similar to the Sibel Edmonds case. In fact, I would bet that it eventually hooks up to some of the same people. The Brits are probably taking their bribes from many of the same players that are bribing our Congressman and State and Defense Department officials.

Lord Justice Moses said that no one could take issue with the decision if there was a threat of "imminent harm". But, if it was less than that, there was then the difficulty that "any villain" could take advantage of the tense situation.

In reply to the judge's observation that nothing appeared to have been done by the Government to find an alternative way of overcoming the threat, Mr Sales said: "You don't have full sight of the underlying material." Mr Sales said this was an issue raised by the judge himself and he had not been given the chance to prepare to meet it.

The hearing continues.

Another article gives more background. BAE: secret papers reveal threats from Saudi prince Spectre of 'another 7/7' led Tony Blair to block bribes inquiry, high court told; David Leigh and Rob Evans The Guardian, Friday February 15, 2008:

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.

Remember that these Saudi leaders are best buddies with Bush and Blair.

Never forget that.

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.

What is the penalty for such conduct in Saudi Arabia? Would they cut off this guy's hand? Or, would it be the death penalty for treason?

Or, would it be okay, because the conduct benefits Muslims?

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.

The Blair legacy is not going to be good. Corruption, cowardice, incompetence....

What's Bush's legacy going to be? Remember, the Sibel Edmonds case is out there....

The threats halted the fraud inquiry, but triggered an international outcry, with allegations that Britain had broken international anti-bribery treaties.

Lord Justice Moses, hearing the civil case with Mr Justice Sullivan, said the government appeared to have "rolled over" after the threats. He said one possible view was that it was "just as if a gun had been held to the head" of the government.

Our "allies" in the "War on Terror" -- the Saudis. Never forget that.

The SFO investigation began in 2004, when Robert Wardle, its director, studied evidence unearthed by the Guardian. This revealed that massive secret payments were going from BAE to Saudi Arabian princes, to promote arms deals.

This part is also very reminiscent of the Sibel Edmonds case -- kickbacks to close arms deals.

Yesterday, anti-corruption campaigners began a legal action to overturn the decision to halt the case. They want the original investigation restarted, arguing the government had caved into blackmail.

Meanwhile, the Sibel Edmonds case languishes over here. At least some people somewhere in the UK have the guts to continue pressing this publicly.

The judge said he was surprised the government had not tried to persuade the Saudis to withdraw their threats. He said: "If that happened in our jurisdiction [the UK], they would have been guilty of a criminal offence". Counsel for the claimants said it would amount to perverting the course of justice.

Maybe you can grab them Saudi princes and send them to Guantanamo for some waterboarding.

Surf's up, Big Kahuna!

Wardle told the court in a witness statement: "The idea of discontinuing the investigation went against my every instinct as a prosecutor. I wanted to see where the evidence led."

But a paper trail set out in court showed that days after Bandar flew to London to lobby the government, Blair had written to the attorney general, Lord Goldsmith, and the SFO was pressed to halt its investigation.

The case officer on the inquiry, Matthew Cowie, was described by the judge as "a complete hero" for standing up to pressure from BAE's lawyers, who went behind his back and tried to secretly lobby the attorney general to step in at an early stage and halt the investigations.

The campaigners argued yesterday that when BAE failed at its first attempt to stop the case, it changed tactics. Having argued it should not be investigated in order to promote arms sales, it then recruited ministers and their Saudi associates to make the case that "national security" demanded the case be covered up.

Moses said that after BAE's commercial arguments failed, "Lo and behold, the next thing there is a threat to national security!" Dinah Rose, counsel for the Corner House and the Campaign against the Arms Trade, said: "Yes, they start to think of a different way of putting it." Moses responded: "That's very unkind!"

The treasonous conduct of BAE is the threat to the UK's national security -- parallel to the Sibel Edmonds case.

Documents seen yesterday also show the SFO warned the attorney general that if he dropped the case, it was likely it would be taken up by the Swiss and the US. These predictions proved accurate.

They need to coordinate their corruption across the pond. They should have offered them a deal: "You shut up about this, and we'll shut up about Sibel Edmonds." Heh.

Bandar's payments were published in the Guardian and Switzerland subsequently launched a money-laundering inquiry into the Saudi arms deal. The US department of justice has launched its own investigation under the foreign corrupt practices act into the British money received in the US by Bandar while he was ambassador to Washington.

Prince Bandar yesterday did not contest a US court order preventing him from taking the proceeds of property sales out of the country. The order will stay in place until a lawsuit brought by a group of BAE shareholders is decided. The group alleges that BAE made £1bn of "illegal bribe payments" to Bandar while claiming to be a "highly ethical, law-abiding corporation".

U.S. legal proceedings that will impact the Saudis beyond our borders: Libel Terrorism in Reverse -- I love it!


Aurora said...

The dhimmitude of Great Britain goes back a long way with the sellout of her industries and sovereignty. Blair was a particularly bad one, but Brown is possibly even worse. It won't be long before G.B. is no more. But the rest of us are looking at being swamped by the dark side as well in the imminent future.

anticant said...

Now, now, YD, don't be so uncharitable to dear misunderstood Mr Blair, who acted - as always - in the best national interest. Thousands of British jobs were at stake, you see, as well as Saudi princes' Swiss bank accounts, and he was afraid the French would pick up the Typhoon order if BAE didn't get it.

And remember, too, that our Tone, like your Dubya, is always convinced that everything he does must be right because God tells him so. I suppose that's why J.P. Morgan and all those other fat cats are paying him millions of dollars to utter a few platitudes at their board meetings.