BRITISH Prime Minister Tony Blair struck a secret deal with the king of Saudi Arabia, assuring him there would be no criminal charges against anyone implicated in bribery in Britain’s biggest arms deal.
In July 2005, Mr Blair assured the then crown prince, Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz, who is now the Saudi King, that Britain would abandon an inquiry by the Serious Fraud Office into alleged massive corruption. It concerned a Â£60 million ($146 million) “slush fund” allegedly set up by BAE Systems, Britain’s biggest military contractor, to support the lifestyle of some members of the Saudi royal family.
Mr Blair told crown prince Abdullah during a visit to Riyadh, the Saudi capital, that the evidence would instead be offered to the Saudi authorities.
Sources with knowledge of the discussions say that even as the major fraud inquiry was expanding with the arrest of five British business executives, Mr Blair was telling crown prince Abdullah that the inquiry “was going nowhere.”
Disclosure of the secret deal undermines a parliamentary statement made by British Attorney-General Lord Goldsmith last December that prosecutors, rather than Downing Street, had made the final decision to drop the inquiry. The news comes as the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development prepares to send inspectors to London to find out why the inquiry was dropped. The OECD rebuked the Government for its decision to drop the case.