UK-Saudi ‘bribery’ row threatens trade

Trade worth billions of dollars in the balance following probe into alleged corrupt BAE deals
By Ben Flanagan
Mon 20 Nov 2006 10:56 AM

Billions of dollars of trade between the UK and Saudi Arabia is under threat following a diplomatic row over an investigation into an allegedly corrupt defence deal, according to a leading Sunday newspaper.

Today’s Sunday Times, published in London, reports that ties between the two countries are under threat following the launch of an investigation by the UK’s Serious Fraud Office (SFO) into allegations that BAE Systems, Britain’s biggest defence company, set up a £60million “slush fund” for the Saudi royal family.

At least five people have been arrested following allegations that payments – in the form of cars, rented apartments and holidays – were paid to ensure that the Saudis continued to buy from BAE.

A senior Saudi diplomat in the UK has given an ultimatum to Tony Blair, calling on the prime minister to drop the investigation. Diplomatic ties, trade and defence contracts between the two countries, and intelligence sharing on Al-Qaeda are all under threat.

The Sunday Times refers to a defence source as saying that the preliminary part of the defence contract is worth £11 billion alone.

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