Transparency International (UK) welcomes the judgment handed down by the Administrative Court on 10th April 2008 on the application of Corner House and Campaign Against Arms Trade. This questioned the legality of the December 2006 decision of the Director of the SFO to discontinue the criminal investigation of BAES in relation to the Al Yamamah contract in Saudi Arabia.
The 2006 decision raised acute concerns over the United Kingdom’s international obligation to combat corruption. The obvious conclusion was that the UK Government was willing to ignore its commitments for undisclosed and questionable reasons. The Court has held that the SFO Director was wrong to discontinue the criminal investigation, and criticises the Government for its abject failure to resist the supposed threat to UK interests which prompted that decision.
The Court’s decision on whether the Al Yamamah investigation should be resumed is not yet known. But the judgment clears the way for immediate actions:
- The new SFO Director has been reminded forcefully that his independence cannot be compromised by government pressure, however intense. He has the power to decide that the investigation should be resumed. TI (UK) believes that he should now do so, bringing to an end the present legal case.
- The Ministry of Justice has failed to respond for 10 months to a proper request from the US Department of Justice for legal assistance with their investigation of the Al Yamamah contract. The Justice Ministry should now provide the assistance requested.
- The UK Government should promptly abandon that part of its Constitutional Renewal Bill that attempts to reinforce the conduct of the Attorney General in this case by providing an unquestionable power to interfere in future investigations in the interests of self-defined “national security”. The Court judgment casts doubt as to whether such a power is constitutional.
- The Government must now make a serious commitment to repair its tattered reputation for combating corruption by engaging constructively with its OECD partners, and correcting its long-standing failings under the Anti-Bribery Convention. A commitment to fast-track this year the recommendations of the Law Commission for a new corruption law would be particularly welcomed.
TI (UK) particularly welcomes the fact that this long-drawn-out process has thrown important light on an episode that has lacked transparency for too long. Any UK Government ready to submit to inconvenient threats in the interests of covering up illegal business transactions has been given notice that the Courts will not tolerate such conduct.
Laurence Cockcroft, TI (UK) chairman said today “the Courts in the UK have also demonstrated, internationally, what an independent judiciary can and will do where legally required to strengthen poor governance.”
Note to editors:
The OECD’s Anti-Bribery Convention is an essential legal framework committing the world’s leading industrialised nations to criminalise the bribery of foreign public officials. More than ten years after its adoption, there has been little or no enforcement in two-thirds of signatory countries.
Click here to download TI’s 2007 Progress Report on OECD Convention Enforcement.
For any press enquiries please contact
Laurence Cockcroft – Chairman
T: 07980 225219
Chandrashekhar Krishnan – Director
T: 07816 311070