A whistleblower who raised concerns that corrupt payments totalling many millions of pounds were being regularly paid to high-ranking Saudi officials to secure a huge defence deal for British defence company GPT Special Projects Management Limited (GPT) is taking legal action over his treatment since he went public with the expose.

Retired Royal Signals Officer, Ian Foxley was a senior executive at GPT, part of the multinational Airbus aerospace group, when he discovered that substantial payments were being paid to offshore accounts linked to high-ranking Saudis for no apparent reason.

Foxley’s case is that he escalated his concerns to senior officials at the Ministry of Defence (MOD), which reported his disclosures to GPT without his knowledge or consent. On learning of his disclosures, GPT’s Managing Director and the HR Director (a senior Saudi Princess) allegedly threatened to have him thrown in jail in Riyadh. These threats caused Ian Foxley to flee Saudi Arabia in fear of his safety. After returning to London, his contract with GPT was terminated and he was subsequently unable to obtain employment in the Defence industry.

A subsequent investigation by the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) led to GPT pleading guilty to an offence of corruption resulting in fines and confiscations totalling £28 million plus £2.2 million costs.

Two GPT employees who were accused of paying the bribes were also charged with corruption offences. On Wednesday 6 March, a jury acquitted Jeffrey Cook and John Mason after lawyers argued the payments had been authorised by the British and Saudi governments.

In court, the SFO claimed that the payments had been made to Prince Mit’eb bin Abdullah, a son of the late King Abdullah, and his associates to ensure that GPT continued to receive lucrative contracts from the Saudi Arabian National Guard, an elite military unit.

In his remarks at the sentencing of GPT in April 2021, which have only just been made public, Mr Justice Bryan said, “From 1982 it was known in HMG that all major government contracts in KSA involved large percentages paid to middlemen on behalf of Saudi individuals… It was decided that taking care of Prince Mit’eb should be a priority for any company dealing with the SANG (Saudi Arabia National Guard). That information was shared at a senior level in UK Government.”

Lt Col Foxley is now taking legal action against the MOD, the Department of International Trade and GPT over the corruption and his treatment as a whistleblower since he raised his concerns.

Foxley said: “The weight of evidence that formed part of the recent trial shows how government departments and GPT facilitated corruption in the SANGCOM Project for more than 45 years. These actions neglected any thought for the moral and legal health of this country and our place on the international stage. This journey started 13 years ago for me when I raised concerns about corruption that I would not be part of. Do not underestimate the effect that has had on my life. The journey continues as I press ahead to hold GPT and the MOD responsible for the harm they’ve caused me, where they’ve consistently tried their hardest to conceal, obfuscate and block any access to the truth of what was really going on.”

Leigh Day partner Paul Dowling said: “It has taken more than a decade since Ian Foxley first raised his concerns, for the facts of this deep-seated corruption to come to light. Lt Col Foxley’s brave whistleblowing ultimately ensured that the British state recovered millions of pounds in fines from GPT, but meanwhile he has suffered irreparable financial and psychological harm, being repeatedly told his allegations were unfounded. GPT and the government departments responsible must now remedy this appalling treatment of an honest ex-serviceman whose life has been ruined for refusing to be complicit in corruption which was orchestrated and maintained at the highest levels of the British Government.”

* Source: Leigh Day