10 October 2019
British anti-corruption watchdogs, Transparency International and Spotlight on Corruption, wrote to Attorney General, Geoffrey Cox (in picture), expressing their serious concern over the lack of progress in GPT Special Project Management investigations by Serious Fraud Office (SFO).
In 2012 whistle blower Ian Foxley, a former operations director for GPT, claimed the company spent US$17 million in illicit payments and gifts to secure a US$2.4 billion communications contract with the Saudi Arabian National Guard. In 2010, when Ian Foxley was a GPT Programme Director in Saudi Arabia, he stumbled upon a chain of emails between a GPT financial controller, Michael Paterson, and his superiors, raising concerns about improper payments and gifts. GPT management consistently dismissed all concerns. When Foxley brought the information to the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD), superiors at GPT threatened him with arrest for theft of company documents. He escaped from Saudi Arabia with the help of his friends in MoD. The information provided by Foxley triggered a Serious Fraud Office investigation that is still ongoing. It is not clear whether Attorney General will allow charges to be brought.
In its latest filing GPT said that it would shut down by December 2019. Under British law a company that has closed cannot be prosecuted. That is why the anti-corruption agencies want the Attorney General to act before December 2019.
The SFO asked the attorney general’s department at least a year ago to decide whether to initiate a prosecution. The Attorney General is holding up the prosecution as it could cause diplomatic controversies with the Saudis and expose British government’s complicity in wrongdoing. A prosecution could also reveal whether the UK MoD approved illicit payments from GPT to Saudi dignitaries.
Airbus, the parent company of GPT, said that it has not been notified of a decision to proceed with charges, but would continue to cooperate with the SFO.
In 2006, Tony Blair’s government shut down an SFO investigation into alleged bribes by BAE, Britain’s biggest arms company, in another Saudi military deal after complaints from Riyadh.
The Guardian reported.