Downing Street yesterday bowed to pressure from Saudi Arabia and forced the Serious Fraud Office to abandon its investigation into alleged bribery of Saudi officials by BAE Systems.
The investigation had embarrassed the Saudi royal family, on whom the alleged £60 million bribes were supposed to have been spent, and threatened a new £10 billion defence deal awarded to BAE by the Kingdom.
Lord Goldsmith, the Attorney General, told the House of Lords yesterday that the SFO would have needed a further 18 months to complete its investigation into BAE with no certainty of being able to make a case.
He said that he had spoken to the Prime Minister and the heads of the intelligence services and concluded it was in the national interest to stop the investigation.
He told the Lords: “They [the PM and others] have expressed the clear view that continuation of the investigation would cause serious damage to UK/Saudi security, intelligence and diplomatic co-operation, which is likely to have seriously negative consequences for the UK public interest in terms of both national security and our highest priority foreign policy objectives in the Middle East.”