Campaigners urge new Attorney General to rule on Airbus/Saudi corruption claims

By agency reporter
February 19, 2020

Campaigners have called on the new Attorney General, Suella Braverman, to make an urgent  judgment on whether to proceed with the corruption charges in relation to a major deal between a UK arms company and Saudi Arabia.

In 2010, GPT Special Project Management (a subsidiary of Airbus), secured a deal worth £2 billion to supply communications equipment and services to the Saudi Arabian National Guard as part of the Ministry of Defence's SANGCOM programme. Since 2012, the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) has been investigating allegations that GPT used illicit payments and gifts totaling at least £14 million to secure the deal.

According to the Guardian, the SFO made a formal request to the attorney general to launch a prosecution at least 20 months ago. So far, no decision has been made. No explanation has been given for the delay, with the previous Attorney General, Geoffrey Cox, refusing to comment.

This deal is one of many between the UK Government and the Saudi regime. It is not the first time that military deals between UK companies and Saudi forces have been linked to accusations of corruption. There have been numerous accusations of corruption in the Al Yamamah aircraft deals which took place in the 1980s.

Saudi forces are by far the largest buyer of UK arms in the world.  Since the bombing of Yemen began in March 2015, the UK has licensed £5.3 billion worth of arms to the Saudi regime, including:

  • £2.7 billion worth of ML10 licences (Aircraft, helicopters, drones)
  • £2.5 billion worth of ML4 licences (Grenades, bombs, missiles, countermeasures)

 In reality the figures are likely to be a great deal higher, with most bombs and missiles being licensed via the opaque and secretive Open Licence system.

Andrew Smith of Campaign Against Arms Trade said: “Corruption cases are always complex, but it should not take this long for a decision to be made. Despite investigations being launched in 2012, there has been no update or explanation from the previous Attorney General for the delays.

"What is clear is that the UK Government has pulled out all stops to arm and support the brutal Saudi regime. In the past this extended to willfully looking the other way when it came to corruption. We hope we are not going to see a repeat of this with GPT. If the UK government is to have any credibility on these issues then Suella Braverman must act on this. Arms company interests and cosy relations with the Saudi dictatorship cannot be put ahead of the fight against corruption."

* Campaign Against Arms Trade


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