Saudi arms deal storm rumbles on

The Attorney General has denied claims that payments to a Saudi prince were concealed.

The claims in the Guardian allege that Lord Goldsmith concealed details of secret payments made by BAE Systems to a former Saudi ambassador from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)

In an interview with the BBC, Lord Goldsmith said that the claims were "absolutely untrue."

Both BAE and Saudi Prince Bandar bin Sultan, who is the son of the Saudi Defence Minister, deny any wrongdoing. The prince was responsible for negotiating an arms deal with Britain worth around £40 billion.

It emerged that the payments, amounting to hundreds of millions of pounds, to the prince were uncovered during an investigation by the Serious Fraud Office.

The details of the payments were known by the Ministry of Defence, but Lord Goldsmith declined to reveal details of the deal claiming that the matter was covered by confidentiality and would pose a "very serious risk to National Security."

In a statement Prince Bandar denied any irregularities in the payments: "The accounts at Riggs Bank were in the name of the Saudi Arabian Ministry of Defence and Aviation ('MODA'). Any payments into those accounts made by BAE were pursuant to the Al-Yamamah contracts and as such would not in any way have been 'secret' from the parties to those contracts.

"Whilst Prince Bandar was an authorised signatory on the accounts any monies paid out of those accounts were exclusively for purposes approved by MODA.

"In addition the accounts in question were audited on an annual basis by the Saudi Arabian Ministry of Finance on behalf of MODA.

"At no stage have MODA or the Saudi Arabian Ministry of Finance identified any irregularities in the conduct of the accounts whether in relation to monies coming into the accounts or monies going out of the accounts," the Prince said.

The Prime Minister said that the Serious Fraud Office had dropped the investigation.

However, it is understood that the legality of the payments would hinge on whether they continued after 2001 when bribes paid to foreign nationals was made an offence under UK law.


Related UK National News Stories
Click here for the latest headlines.

31 January 2012
Gov Criticised Over Flood Cuts
The Government has been criticised over its handling of flood protection, after making a 27% cut to flood protection and for being unclear on where the "buck stops".
04 February 2011
HMRC Warns Against ‘Phishy’ Email Scam
HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) is warning taxpayers to be vigilant following a surge of fake ‘phishing’ emails sent out by fraudsters, following the 31 January Self Assessment tax return filing deadline. The email informs the recipient they are due a tax rebate, and provides a click-through link to a replica of the HMRC website.
02 November 2010
BMA Highlights Health Inequalities
Commenting today on the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) report on health inequalities in England, Dr Richard Vautrey, Deputy Chairman of the British Medical Association (BMA) GPs Committee, said: "Like the Public Accounts Committee, the BMA is very concerned that the gap between the rich and poor in this country continues to widen.
12 August 2010
Beware 'Tax' Scammers, Says Revenue
Taxpayers are being urged to be vigilant following reports that thieves are making phone calls pretending to be the taxman. The fraudsters inform taxpayers they are due a tax rebate, and ask for their bankcard details over the phone. They then attempt to take money from the account using the details provided.
21 March 2006
Diana fountain criticised in MP report
The Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fountain has been criticised by a committee of MPs as "ill-conceived". The fountain, which opened in London's Hyde Park in 2004, was plagued by problems.