Campaigners welcome Serious Fraud Office action on BAE prosecution

by CAAT and The Corner House

first published 1 October 2009

PRESS RELEASE 1 October 2009

Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) and The Corner House have welcomed the decision of the Director of the UK's Serious Fraud Office (SFO), Richard Alderman, to begin prosecution proceedings against BAE Systems for "offences relating to overseas corruption". The SFO has been investigating the business activities of BAE Systems in African and Eastern European countries.

Their call comes after BAE reportedly rejected a "plea bargain" offer from the SFO to settle following its six-year investigation into allegations involving sales to several countries (Chile, Czech Republic, Qatar, Romania, Saudi Arabia, South Africa and Tanzania). BAE is alleged to have paid bribes, in many cases in the form of commissions to "advisers" on the arms deals, in order to clinch the sales.

The SFO had reportedly given BAE until 30 September to accept its offer of a plea bargain with a fine or to face criminal prosecution. BAE denies the allegations of wrong-doing.

Kaye Stearman, CAAT's spokeperson, says:

For many years we have been exposing the illegal and unethical activities of the arms trade, especially BAE, the UK's largest arms company. We welcome the SFO decision to go ahead. It would be scandalous if the Attorney General did not take this forward.

Sarah Sexton for The Corner House says:

We urge the SFO Director to seek, and the Attorney General to give, consent for prosecution without delay so that these serious allegations can be resolved in public by a jury and the truth can be known.