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Sun 20 May 2007 01:53 PM

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Police act on UK, Saudi fraud probe

British police seek access to government emails over alleged bribery payments by BAE Systems.

Detectives secretly tried to access UK government emails as part of an investigation into a halted probe into alleged 'slush fund' payments made by BAE Systems to members of the Saudi royal family.

Police sought access to emails sent by and to Jonathan Powell, Tony Blair's chief of staff, according to today's Sunday Times.

The newspaper claims that Jonathan Powell's brother, Lord Powell - who became an adviser to BAE Systems in 2003 - was lobbying Downing Street aides to have the investigation stopped.

Access to the e-mails was denied for legal reasons, said the newspaper.

Last year, the British Serious Fraud Office dropped an investigation into alleged bribes paid by BAE Systems to Saudi royals as part of the $40bn Al-Yamamah arms deal.

Arms campaigners voiced uproar at the decision, and - at a hearing at a UK court later this year - are expected to press the government for full details of any possible involvement of the Powell brothers and any email exchanges they may have had on the matter.

Jonathan Powell was a key player in the events leading up to the decision to drop the SFO enquiry.

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