The UK government's excuses for halting corruption investigations into an arm deal with Saudi Arabia just took an overly-dramatic turn.
Previously secret files describe how investigators were told they faced "another 7/7" and the loss of "British lives on British streets" if they pressed on with their inquiries and the Saudis carried out their threat to cut off intelligence.The government's lawyer said the threat to national security was a clear one:
Prince Bandar, the head of the Saudi national security council, and son of the crown prince, was alleged in court to be the man behind the threats to hold back information about suicide bombers and terrorists. He faces accusations that he himself took more than £1bn in secret payments from the arms company BAE.
He was accused in yesterday's high court hearings of flying to London in December 2006 and uttering threats which made the prime minister, Tony Blair, force an end to the Serious Fraud Office investigation into bribery allegations involving Bandar and his family.
The threats halted the fraud inquiry, but triggered an international outcry, with allegations that Britain had broken international anti-bribery treaties.
Lord Justice Moses, hearing the civil case with Mr Justice Sullivan, said the government appeared to have "rolled over" after the threats. He said one possible view was that it was "just as if a gun had been held to the head" of the government.
Philip Sales QC, appearing on behalf of the director of the SFO, Robert Wardle, said that since Saudi Arabia was not subject to British law, nothing could be done.Hang on. We're expected to believe that such serious threats caused the government to order bribe investigations dropped - - but that the government then pressed ahead anyway with a 40 billion pound sale of advanced Eurofighter Typhoon fighters to the nation that had just threatened Britain's security. What an amazing admission.
He said it was legitimate for Wardle to take into account the fact the state "did not have the resources to meet the threat in the ordinary way".
..."What you are saying is that the law is powerless to protect our own sovereignty - the law cannot be deployed as a weapon to protect the sovereignty of this country," said Lord Justice Moses.
Yesterday, Moses asked why the Saudis had not been told, "You can't talk to us like that", and said the threats would have been a criminal offence in British law.
Today, Moses asked Sales if he thought nothing could be done to resist such threats from powerful foreign states.
Sales said: "Correct - we cannot compel Saudi Arabia to adopt a different stance." He said it was "a fact of life" and said the director could not "magic this situation away".
"The director has made it clear how important he thought the security implications were," Sales said. "He accepted what he was advised as to the imminence of the threat. It cannot be said that he acted irrationally."
Either these "secret papers" are utter BS or Blair himself was amazingly, criminally, incompetent in continuing the sale. I'm personally betting the former - possibly both. Especially considering the many cash for honours scandals that surround Blair's time in office and his obvious avarice nowadays.
And before my American friends write this off as a purely British scandal - recall that much of the bribe money Prince Bandar is alleged to have received from the UK over the years was funnelled through the now-defunct Riggs Bank in Washington. Let's also not lose sight of the certainty that Bush would certainly have been told about the Saudi threats to Britain but went ahead anyway with his own massive arms sale to a nation that had so threatened an ally and fellow NATO member. This one is going to be the scandal that keeps giving.
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