the Disillusioned kid: I am the law
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Friday, December 15, 2006

I am the law

Truly this is a government without parallel:
A major criminal investigation into alleged corruption by the arms company BAE Systems and its executives was stopped in its tracks yesterday when the prime minister claimed it would endanger Britain's security if the inquiry was allowed to continue.

The remarkable intervention was announced by the attorney general, Lord Goldsmith, who took the decision to end the Serious Fraud Office inquiry into alleged bribes paid by the company to Saudi officials, after consulting cabinet colleagues.

In recent weeks, BAE and the Saudi embassy had frantically lobbied the government for the long-running investigation to be discontinued, with the company insisting it was poised to lose another lucrative Saudi contract if it was allowed to go on. This came at a time when the SFO appeared to have made a significant breakthrough, with investigators on the brink of accessing key Swiss bank accounts.

However, Lord Goldsmith consulted the prime minister, the defence secretary, foreign secretary, and the intelligence services, and they decided that "the wider public interest" "outweighed the need to maintain the rule of law". Mr Blair said it would be bad for Britain's security if the SFO was allowed to go ahead, according to the statement made in the Lords by Lord Goldsmith. The statement did not elaborate on the nature of the threat.

BAE claimed that it was about to lose out on a third phase of the Al-Yamamah deal, in which the Saudis would buy 72 Typhoon aircraft in a deal worth £6bn. The Saudis had also hinted that they would do a deal with the French instead if the inquiry pushed ahead. A 10-day ultimatum was reportedly issued by the Saudis earlier this month.
This is blatant political interference in a criminal investigation on the part of our soi-disant leaders. National interest - always a dubious term given the heterogeneous reality of nations - is now defined as being synonymous with the interests of BAE and the Saudi royal family.

Clare Short averred, "This government is even more soiled than we thought it was. It means that BAE is above the law," a sentiment echoed by the Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT). It seems to me that this misses the point. BAE have wormed their way into the heart of British power: they exert huge influence on the Cabinet; employees move seamlessly between the arms trade and government; and there is an entire MOD agency, the Defence Exports Services Organisation, set up to promote British arms companies, currently headed by Alan Garwood on a secondment from MBDA who are part-owned by BAE. BAE aren't so much above the law, as they have become the law.

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