The Duke of York is under pressure to resign from his role as a UK “trade ambassador” after the publication of comments in which he appeared to defend corruption in the arms industry.
According to the latest revelations from WikilLeaks, published in the Guardian, he attacked the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) for investigating the multinational arms company BAE Systems and its deals with Saudi Arabia. He described reporters investigating BAE as “these [expletive] journalists, especially from the national Guardian, who stick their noses in everywhere”.
The Duke, Andrew Windsor, is fourth in line to the British throne.
The Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) said that he must resign from his role immediately. The Duke's work with UK Trade and Investment (UKTI), a unit of the Department for Business, is already controversial.
Critics point out that UKTI devotes more staff to arms exports than to all civil sectors combined, although arms make up less than two per cent of UK exports.
The Duke is reported to have made the remarks in Kyrgyzstan in 2008. They were quoted by the US ambassador to Kyrgyzstan, Tatiana Gfoeller, in a report that has now been leaked.
Gfoeller wrote, “He railed at British anti-corruption investigators, who had had the 'idiocy' of almost scuttling the Al-Yamamah deal with Saudi Arabia”.
For some, the news suggests that a pro-bribery attitude continues to exist amongst those promoting arms exports from the UK, despite protestations to the contrary from government and arms companies.
CAAT's Kaye Stearman said that “it is wrong that UKTI is promoting weapons sales and wrong that Prince Andrew is seen to be supporting arms sales and accepting corruption”.
But she added, “This report shows that the relationship seems to go even deeper, with Prince Andrew speaking out against a government agency attempting to investigate corruption and arms deals”.
She insisted, “He should resign from his UKTI role immediately.”
CAAT, along with The Corner House, an anti-corruption NGO, took the SFO to court in 2006-08 after it dropped its investigation into BAE's Saudi deals under pressure from the then Prime Minister Tony Blair.
The High Court ruled in favour of CAAT, saying that the SFO had acted illegally, although this decision was later overturned by the law lords.