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Anti-arms campaigners tell new Attorney General it's decision time on Saudi-Airbus corruption claims

ANTI-ARMS campaigners have urged newly appointed Attorney General Suella Braverman to rule swiftly on corruption claims against a British company and Saudi Arabia.

Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) called on Ms Braverman today to speedily make a judgement on whether to proceed with corruption charges in relation to a £2 billion deal between Airbus and the Saudi military.

In 2010, GPT Special Project Management, a subsidiary of Airbus, secured the deal to supply communications equipment and services to the Saudi Arabian national guard as part of the Ministry of Defence’s (MoD’s) ongoing Sangcom programme.

The MoD’s support programme, paid for by the regime, has operated since 1978. The cost of the latest 10-year deal was accidentally revealed last July when the ministry published an ad for the job of project manager based in Riyadh.

Since 2012 the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) has been investigating allegations that GPT used illicit payments and gifts totalling at least £14 million to secure the deal.

Previous attorney generals have sat on the investigation for two years without providing any updates, CAAT said.

The SFO made a formal request to the attorney general to launch a prosecution some 20 months ago, but so far no decision has been made. No explanation was offered for the delay, and previous attorney general Geoffrey Cox, who was moved aside in last week’s Cabinet reshuffle, refused to comment on the matter.

CAAT’s Andrew Smith said: “Corruption cases are always complex, but it should not take this long for a decision to be made.

“Despite investigations being launched in 2012, there has been no update or explanation from the previous attorney general for the delays.

“What is clear is that the UK government has pulled out all stops to arm and support the brutal Saudi regime.”

Mr Smith argued that, in the past, Britain’s support for the regime has extended to “willfully looking the other way” when it came to corruption and hoped it would not be repeated with GPT.

He said: “If the UK government is to have any credibility on these issues, then Suella Braverman must act on this.

“Arms company interests and cosy relations with the Saudi dictatorship cannot be put ahead of the fight against corruption.”

The deal is one of many between the two states, and it is not the first time that military deals between British companies and the Saudi forces have been linked to accusations of corruption.

And Airbus was fined a record £3bn only last month after admitting it had paid huge bribes to land contracts in 20 countries by using a network of secret agents. The corruption was uncovered following four years of inquiries in Britain, France and the United States.

Saudi Arabia is the world’s biggest customer for British military equipment. Since the bombing of Yemen began in March 2015, Britain has licensed £5.3bn worth of arms to the Saudi regime.

These licences cover aircraft such as helicopters and drones as well as grenades, bombs and missiles.

The Saudi-led war in Yemen has created a humanitarian disaster, with nearly 80 per cent of the population in urgent need of aid.

In June, British arms sales to Saudi Arabia were ruled unlawful by the Court of Appeal, but the government has continued to “accidentally” grant licences.

The MoD had not responded to requests for comment at the time of going to press.

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