By Ben Flanagan
Despite controversy over halted fraud probe, 72 Eurofighter planes will be delivered ‘very soon'.
Saudi Arabia will take delivery of 72 Eurofighter jets ‘very soon’ after a fraud probe into alleged ‘slush funds’ paid by manufacturer BAE Systems was controversially dropped by the British government.
The sophisticated warplanes "will be sent to the kingdom very soon at specific dates,” said Prince Sultan bin Abdul, the country's defence minister, quoted by the BBC citing the official Saudi news agency.
The deal – between the UK Ministry of Defence and the Saudi government – is worth an estimated US$19.3bn.
An inquiry was underway as to whether a ‘slush fund’ of over $100 million had been paid to members of the Saudi royal family as part of a 1980s BAE Systems deal with Saudi Arabia.
However, the enquiry by the UK’s Serious Fraud Office was abandoned amid a diplomatic storm in which - as the Financial Times reported last month - Saudi Arabia threatened to withdraw all co-operation on security, including intelligence sharing on al-Qaeda, and downgrade its embassy in London.
There have been several challenges to the dropped investigation including one from the bribery arm of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), which has demanded an explanation from the British Foreign Office.
Last month two campaign groups - Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) and The Corner House - instructed solicitors to consider legal action against the UK's Attorney General over the decision to end the investigation.