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Wednesday, 30 September 2009

A little technicality

There are press reports that the SFO may press criminal charges over BAE Systems’ arms deals. It seems the company won't roll over and plead guilty, which means that Baroness Scotland, attorney-general, may have to decide whether to proceed with the case. The case involved not only the large Saudi Arabian contracts (now outside the terms of the investigation due to a little Saudi diplomatic pressure, but also reportedly in Tanzania, South Africa, Romania, the Czech Republic and other countries.

A guilty plea on a corruption charge might have serious consequences for BAE. In the worst case it could be excluded from government contracts in the EU and the US. BAE has previously denied bribery and said that it is co-operating with the UK authorities as part of a policy of “allowing the ongoing investigations to run their course”.

If it does come to a conviction, BAe should feel no shame in quoting the Attorney General and saying their conviction was for “a technical offence comparable to not paying the congestion charge”.

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