Bribery claims lead colleagues to fear for safety of Michael Paterson and his family
Part 4 of the inside story of ‘bribes’, Saudi Arabia and the Sangcom project…
Paterson fears that his life could be in as much danger in the UK as in Saudi Arabia.
He tells the HR officer: “If repatriation is to be considered, I assume that it will be as a result of there being some conclusion that the threat to me is greater in Saudi than it is in the UK.
“I remain unconvinced that this is the case, but we shall see what the compliance investigation turns up.”
“I am concerned for you (and your family’s) safety after reading all that you have sent”
– Peter Cheney, union representative, EADS group
He sends a further e-mail to the HR officer asking for his work “situation” to be resolved.
Paterson is told that his boss is planning to discuss it with him after returning from holiday. The HR officer adds: “I continue to investigate options for the repatriation of yourself, your wife and your baby based on the safety-threat concerns that you have raised previously. I hope to have further advice for you on this topic in the following days.”
Paterson hears nothing from the HR officer for seven weeks, so e-mails him.
The HR officer replies: “I had understood that your recent visit with EADS and Astrium compliance clarified the issue of your safety, so I have not pursued the safety-awareness training further.”
He adds: “I know that [Paterson’s boss] operates an open-door policy for all GPT personnel, which you should make use of in order to discuss your local issues.”
Meanwhile, EADS celebrates recognition for creating a compliance division that enables employees to report confidentially breaches of the group’s code of conduct. In Madrid in September 2010, Montoya’s department wins an award from CSR Europe, a European business network championing ‘corporate social responsibility’.
Further e-mail exchanges lead Paterson to tell the HR officer: “Regarding the safety of myself and my family, I made you aware of my concerns during our call on July 6, 2010.”
“I advised you that it was my intention to report my concerns to the UK Serious Fraud Office, and that I would like the company’s support in doing so. You persuaded me to delay reporting to the SFO until I had feedback from Mr Montoya and, in the meantime, you would arrange for safety-awareness training. I accepted your suggestion, and I have honoured my side of the agreement.”
“At no point has anyone given me any comfort the threats are not to be taken seriously.” He recounts the exchanges in which, he says, Troyas warned him about his and his family’s safety.
Paterson is told again by HR to talk to his line manager.
Paterson has had enough. One Saturday in October, he writes in an e-mail to Peter Cheney, his union representative at EADS: “I think that it is time to bring this nonsense to an end. No one is taking me or you seriously, so I think that I have to take everything to the authorities.”
“The only option remaining to me is to report matters externally.” He suggests that he should travel to London within the month to “make full disclosure to the SFO.”
He asks whether the union would accompany him to the SFO, and says that “all the documents” that he needs are already with his solicitors in London.
Cheney works for Astrium as a senior thermal design engineer in Stevenage in Hertfordshire, England. As soon as he sees Paterson’s e-mail the following Tuesday, he replies urging caution: “Just got your e-mail, and I hope that you will pick this up sooner rather than later.”
“I understand your frustration even though I have only been trying to progress things for a few weeks.”
He agrees to accompany Paterson at the SFO “for moral support, if nothing else”.
“I am concerned for you (and your family’s) safety after reading all that you have sent.
“Secondly, I am concerned for what will happen on a wider scene after the SFO is informed because I think that events will quickly escalate out of anyone’s control.”
Cheney e-mails again late on Friday afternoon to report that he has arranged a meeting with the EADS executive with whom Paterson had previously clashed.
Paterson spends the weekend restlessly after reading that e-mail. He replies to Cheney on the Saturday: “I am going to have a bit of a rant…”
Additional research by Alex Varley-Winter.