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MoD revealed to have paid millions to Saudis during BAE corruption scandal

In an investigation by The Guardian, documents have come to light indicating that Britain’s Ministry of Defence (MoD) was involved in making questionable payments to a Saudi bank account amidst one of the most significant corruption scandals involving BAE Systems, the UK’s largest arms manufacturer.

These revelations emerged from previously confidential documents disclosed during a court case, highlighting concerns about the potential misuse of funds by the Saudi royal family.

The documents detail how the MoD proceeded with the payments despite the Serious Fraud Office’s (SFO) scrutiny over allegations that BAE had paid substantial bribes to secure the UK-Saudi al-Yamamah contract. This contract, valued at £40 billion, involved supplying Saudi Arabia with 120 Tornado aircraft, Hawk warplanes, and other military equipment. The investigation into these allegations by the SFO was controversially halted in 2006 following interventions by Tony Blair’s government, citing national interest after pressure from Saudi Arabia.

The disclosed documents include emails and memos, many labeled as “highly sensitive” and “restricted,” showing a senior MoD official’s concerns about displeasing key Saudi individuals and the importance of maintaining favorable relations with Saudi Arabia during a “critical time.” This new payment system, established post-SFO investigation, facilitated continued payments to Prince Bandar bin Sultan from 1988 to 2007, contradicting long-standing claims by British ministers of no corruption in the al-Yamamah deal. Part of these payments was used to fund a £75 million Airbus A340 for Prince Bandar’s personal use.

The MoD has defended the payments, stating they were made according to agreements between the British and Saudi governments and that the disbursement of funds was managed by the Saudis. The MoD and BAE have both denied any wrongdoing, asserting that all payments were made with the express approval of the UK government and were confidential.

The exposure of these documents has reignited discussions about Britain’s commitment to combating corruption and the ethical implications of its defence contracts. The case highlights the complex intersection of international diplomacy, national security, and corporate ethics, sparking debate on the need for transparency and accountability in defense dealings.