Former army officer asks prime minister to help end bribery in defence sales
By Frederika Whitehead | 29 May 2012
UK prime minister David Cameron was alerted to bombshell bribery allegations over a £2 billion defence deal with Saudi Arabia.
Exaro can reveal that a former lieutenant-colonel in the British army sent a detailed briefing on the case to the prime minister, and asked for his support in stopping corruption in defence exports.
The former army officer, Ian Foxley, believes that appealing to Cameron directly will help to ensure that the case is fully investigated.
Foxley told Exaro: “David Cameron says all the time that, if there is a scandal, he will bring it into the sunshine, that this is the best way to deal with a scandal.”
“Well, I say to the prime minister, ‘Okay, here is your opportunity. If you say that you are clean, fine. Let us clean it up.’”
Two weeks ago, Exaro revealed details of 28 payments totalling just over £14.5 million paid by a British subsidiary of EADS, the European defence giant, to two companies in the Cayman Islands between 2007 and 2010. Mystery surrounds the identities of the final beneficiaries of the payments.
Foxley was the programme director of the Sangcom project, under which the Ministry of Defence (MoD) is overhauling the Saudi Arabian national guard’s communications systems.
He worked for GPT Special Project Management, a British subsidiary of EADS and the prime contractor. The latest 10-year phase of the programme began in 2010, and is reportedly worth £2 billion.
The former army officer sent his letter and a dossier of material to Vince Cable, business secretary, copied to Cameron.
Sent in January, he writes: “I am the whistleblower on bribery and corruption being practised by GPT Special Project Management.”
“Since declaring the company’s bribery and corrupt practices, I have been dismissed from my appointment with GPT as programme director, and have been unable to find equivalent employment within the defence sector.”
“It is neither fair nor just that an honest employee who refuses to succumb to company pressure to participate in corruption should be severely prejudiced for ‘doing the right thing.’”
He also submitted the letter to the government’s consultation on reforming the Financial Reporting Council (FRC). It is among a large volume of submissions published by the FRC, the regulator responsible for promoting corporate governance in the UK.
Copies of the Foxley dossier also went to Nick Clegg, deputy prime minister, Philip Hammond, defence secretary, and Dominic Grieve, attorney general.
Cable heads the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), which oversees the UK Trade & Investment Defence & Security Organisation (UKTI DSO). This body works closely with the MoD to help the UK defence industry to sell to overseas governments.
Exaro also revealed last week that MoD officials knew about the offshore payments in late 2008. The transfers continued for at least another 19 months after a warning by MoD officials working on the Sangcom project in Saudi Arabia that the ministry in London was unlikely to approve future payments.
In the letter, Foxley also accuses the MoD and UKTI DSO of complicity in corruption in the Sangcom project.
A correspondence officer in the prime minister’s office wrote to acknowledge Foxley’s letter.
A spokeswoman said that the prime minister’s office was unable to comment on personal correspondence, but added: “The UK is working hard to tackle corruption, both at home and abroad. Through the Bribery Act, we have sent an unequivocal message that we intend to take a strong stand on corruption, and that bribes should not play any part in winning business.”
Foxley received a fuller reply from Cable’s department, saying: “Because the [Serious Fraud Office] is still examining these issues as a result of the allegations that you have made, I am unable to comment on issues relating to DSO, MoD and EADS compliance issues.”
“As you yourself recognise, issues such as this have personal, corporate and international aspects, are complicated and require thorough investigation, which will therefore take time.”
Foxley said that the reply was a “masterpiece in obfuscation”.
An MoD spokeswoman said: “We are not going to comment while there is an investigation ongoing.”
UKTI DSO also declined to comment.
A spokesman for EADS has previously told Exaro: “Certain allegations have been made, and these are being properly addressed with our full and constructive engagement.” Asked about Foxley’s letter, the spokesman said: “We have got nothing more to say on this issue.”