Jeff Cook tells staff of plans to leave as troubled GPT shakes up management team
By Frederika Whitehead | 18 February 2013
“We do not comment on our employees’ circumstances or whereabouts”
– EADS spokesman
Defence giant EADS faces the loss of the managing director of the British subsidiary embroiled in bribery allegations over a huge Saudi contract.
Exaro can today reveal that Jeff Cook has told staff at the EADS unit, GPT Special Project Management, that he is set to leave as its managing director at the end of March. It is the first step in a management shake-up of the troubled subsidiary.
It comes as the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) investigates the company over claims that it paid bribes to help secure a deal to overhaul the Saudi national guard’s communications systems under the ?Sangcom project’.
Exaro has published a series of revelations exposing the affair, beginning in May last year with the disclosure from whistleblowers that GPT transferred more than £14.5 million as part of the deal to two mysterious offshore companies that did not appear to carry out any sub-contracting work.
On Friday, a specialist researcher on the defence industry called on the National Audit Office to investigate the Ministry of Defence’s role.
Pressure is increasing on EADS as regulators take a keener interest in the case, with questions being asked in Parliament and national newspapers following up the disclosures.
The USA’s Federal Bureau of Investigation is understood to have stepped up its attention to the case after Exaro detailed how the £14.5 million transfers were routed through HSBC, mostly via New York.
Well-placed sources told Exaro that the MoD was delaying the signing of rolling contracts within the Sangcom project and was putting pressure on EADS to clear out the top management of GPT.
Cook is based at GPT’s offices in the al-Faisaliah tower in the centre of Riyadh, Saudi Arabia’s capital. The company has nearly 400 members of staff, many of them working in Riyadh.
Asked whether he was forced to resign from GPT because of pressure from the MoD, Cook declined to comment.
An EADS spokesman said: “We do not comment on our employees’ circumstances or whereabouts.”
A schedule drawn up by GPT’s then financial officer, Mike Paterson, named Cook as one of three executives who between them approved the transfers of £14.5 million.
The other executives were named as Malcolm Peto, who had since left the EADS group, and Laurence Bryant.
Cook and Peto also authorised cheques totalling more than £200,000, to gift four four-wheel-drive cars to two Saudi commanders and two civilian advisers, according to the schedule.
Peto was chief executive of Astrium Services UK, another telecoms company in the EADS group, and was director of Paradigm Services, which owns GPT.
Each of the executives has declined to comment about their roles.
Bryant, who effectively took over as GPT’s financial officer, is expected to leave the company soon after Cook.
EADS has adopted the position throughout that it is co-operating with the SFO investigation, but declines to comment on the substance of the allegations.
But insiders complain that EADS is being unfairly blamed when the MoD was aware of the arrangements.
The claim is supported by the disclosure that the MoD knew about the offshore transfers, warned that the department was unlikely to approve them in future, although payments continued for at least another 19 months.
Back in 1976, when the Sangcom deal was first negotiated, the MoD’s then permanent secretary, Frank Cooper, approved the inclusion of “agency fees” of three per cent for a company called Simec International. The initial contract was valued then at £150 million, but the latest 10-year phase started in 2010 is reportedly worth £2 billion.