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US ask UK to Help Investigate Corruption Claims at BAE

US ask UK to Help Investigate Corruption Claims at BAE

There are two ways to bury news.

One is to release news on days when there is something that will be deemed as more important. For example, when Bill Clinton ordered the single biggest bombing campaign in Kosovo it was announced on the same day as the Colombine school shootings.

The second is to release the story on a Friday. By the time the weekend has passed, it’s a distant memory and we’ll have some other story about Ono the panda’s birthday to report on.

However, this piece of news from Friday has sat consistently in the top 5 most e-mailed news stories on the BBC News website for the last 48 hours; and rightly so.

British firm BAE are responsible for the Eurofighter and last week announced that it had secured sales to Saudi Arabia worth over $4 billion, and potentially up to $20 billion for 72 planes.

However, the US have been investigating BAE for some time about corruption claims. It is claimed that BAE kept a secret fund that helped it to win contracts from Saudi Arabia and other countries. The US are particularly interested in a $43billion deal in 1985, in which BAE supplied Hawk and Tornado jets plus other military equipment to Al-Yamamah.

The US have now asked the Home Office to assist in the investigation into alleged bribes to Saudi Prince Bandar bin Sultan in 1985.

Now this smacks a little of hypocrisy to me, I’m afraid. Ignore the fact that over twenty years have elapsed since the event. Ignore the fact that the shareholders have brought a separate action against BAE for failing to carry out their duties in 1985. What’s the real reason for the US’s interest here?

I mean, Lockhead Martin wouldn’t have anything to gain from BAE’s loss of business or even demise. They reported sales of $11.4 billion in 2006. An additional $20 billion from Saudi Arabia for their F22 Raptor or F16 Fighting Falcon would make a slight improvement on their budget.

However, with the War on Terror waging and Bush looking at countries all over the Middle East, would the US want Saudi Arabia to be strengthening their airforce? Especially with a plane like the Eurofighter, which is more superior (air-to-air) than anything that the US currently produces.

If the US want to investigate corruption claims, they should start with some companies closer to home. Halliburton, Searle, Lockheed and many others might need a looksee – but that’s a whole new thread and news story.

Now that the Home Office are considering their involvement, maybe we’ll start to see more of this story. But one thing is for sure; publishing on a Friday has made no difference to the popularity of the story. Maybe next time we hear about the issue, it’ll be released to the media when OJ is in court.

DM

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