Campaigners and Serious Fraud Office in judicial review

The Campaign Against Arms Trade and environmental and social justice NGO The Corner House will today argue against the Serious Fraud Office in a two-day judicial review at the High Court.

The hearing will review the SFO decision to end its investigation into alleged bribery and corruption by BAE Systems in relation to Britain’s biggest-ever arms deal – contracts for the £40bn sale of Tornado fighter planes negotiated between the Thatcher government and Saudi Arabia in both 1985 and 1988.

The campaigning groups will argue that Robert Wardle, the director of the SFO, made his decision to cancel the inquiry in 2006 after warnings from then Prime Minister Tony Blair and then Attorney General Lord Goldsmith.

They will claim that the Government’s warnings were the result of a series of letters from BAE in 2005 about Saudi Arabia’s threat to cancel another contract for 72 Eurofighter Typhoon aircraft and to withdraw diplomatic cooperation with the UK if the investigation continued.

The campaigning groups will argue that the Government’s warnings were tainted, unlawful and possibly damaging to UK national security, and that Wardle did not uphold the rule of law in allowing these warnings to influence his decision to investigate.

The Government has denied any breach of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development’s Anti-Bribery Convention, but has declared that it would have taken the decision to terminate the investigation, regardless of international law, on the grounds of national security.

In a separate judicial review in 2004, The Corner House become the first NGO to obtain a protective costs order, in effect guaranteeing that it would not have been liable for costs, even if it lost the case.

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