Whistleblower identifies two military chiefs who received gifts from defence company
By Frederika Whitehead | 8 August 2012
Commander Mohammed bin Khalid al-Nahed, head of the signal corps of the Saudi Arabian national guard, and his deputy, Commander Abdul Rahman bin Abdullah al-Ayaddi, are alleged to have received cars that cost nearly £125,000 in total.
A financial officer at the British contractor to the Saudi national guard drew up a schedule showing the defence company’s gifts of four-wheel-drive cars.
According to the schedule, the commander of the signals corps was given a Range Rover Vogue worth almost £70,000, while his number two received a £55,000 Lexus LX 570.
Two civilian advisers were also said to have been given Toyota Land Cruisers that cost £38,500 each.
The commanders are key players on a committee that directs the ‘Sangcom project’, a huge military telecoms programme for the Saudi national guard.
Senior staff from the UK’s Ministry of Defence (MoD) and the company that paid for the vehicles also attend the weekly committee meetings.
The prime contractor on the programme is GPT Special Project Management, a subsidiary of EADS, the European defence giant.
The financial officer’s schedule identifies the two commanders as “major generals”. GPT staff members nicknamed the head of the signal corps, “General MK”, and his deputy, “General AA”.
The financial officer, who still works for GPT despite his whistleblowing, complained internally at the company that the offshore companies were not suppliers in the contract. Mystery surrounds the identities of the final beneficiaries.
MoD officials knew about the offshore payments, which continued for at least another 19 months after they warned that the ministry was unlikely to approve them in future.
Exaro has agreed not to name the financial officer. But his schedule that details gifts and payments by the contractor has been supplied to the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) by an ex-GPT executive, Ian Foxley, a former programme director for the massive communications contract.
The disclosures further increase the pressure on the SFO, which started a preliminary investigation into the GPT case last year, but refuses to comment on progress.
Al-Nahed and al-Ayaddi declined to comment on the allegations.
Eddie Fisher, who also blew the whistle to support corruption allegations over the contract, told Exaro how uncomfortable he quickly became working on the Sangcom project in Riyadh, the Saudi capital.
Fisher, who was Foxley’s predecessor as programme director, spoke of the opulent lifestyle of ‘General MK’.
He recalled a “work social event” at al-Nahed’s house. “There were 50 or 60 of us at dinner, mostly from GPT and the [UK] Ministry of Defence.
“We were waited on by something like 30 or 40 servants… The crockery, the glassware on the table, it made me feel uncomfortable because, to me, it was over the top.
“The house itself is more of a palace. It has its own drive, a big garden. It is in the centre of Riyadh. There were armed guards in the grounds.
“I do not know, but I would not be surprised if it has 15 or 20 bedrooms. It was very, very big, and the inside is marble.”
Fisher quit after three months, convinced that the contract was plagued by corruption.
EADS, which is understood to be carrying out an internal investigation into allegations of corruption surrounding the contract, has declined to answer detailed questions from Exaro about the case, including the claims about the cars. It has only said: “Certain allegations have been made, and these are being properly addressed with our full and constructive engagement.”
The defence giant is expected to supply the results of its internal investigation to the SFO.
MPs have pressed ministers over the GPT contract. Malcolm Bruce, a senior Liberal Democrat MP charged with scrutinising UK arms sales, believes that GPT should be brought before the courts.
The Sangcom project began in the 1970’s, and the latest 10-year phase alone is reportedly worth £2 billion.
Additional research by Lisa Barrington.