In 2010 Ian Foxley (Lieutenant Colonel, British Army, retired) became a Saudi-based employee of GPT Special Project Management, a subsidiary of Airbus. GPT provided secure communications systems to the Saudi national guard under an agreement between the MoD and the Saudis.
Arabian Business reported way back in 2011 that a source at the SFO told the paper a preliminary investigation was underway into claims of corruption, noting that the £2bn ($3.2bn) communications contract was one of the largest awarded in recent years by Saudi Arabia.
In a report of evidence given to the Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards it was recorded that Mr Foxley had discovered documentary evidence of gross irregularities, and attempts to cover them up, within GPT and the SANGCOM Project which he reported to EADS Group Compliance, the UK MoD and the Serious Fraud Office. The Financial Times [April 28th] added that he discovered gifts to Saudi military officials and illicit payments routed through the Cayman Islands and provided evidence of the questionable transactions to an MoD official overseeing the project.
As the MoD informed his bosses at GPT that he had raised concerns, he left Saudi Arabia. In 2012 other MoD/Saudi irregularities were exposed. Though the UK Serious Fraud Office began a corruption investigation in 2012 and arrested and questioned six people in 2014 including current and former GPT employees and former MoD officials, no one has been charged.
The Ministry of Defence (housed above) decided to hold back parts of the material to be released to Richard Brooks, a journalist at Private Eye magazine, after his freedom of information request. Mr Brooks, who has reported on the alleged corrupt transactions related to a contract to equip Saudi Arabia’s national guard, told the three-judge panel on the tribunal that the refusal to reveal the information amounted to a cover-up.
Ian Foxley (FT May 18th) describes this as a battle between the correct implementation of UK law in exposing and fighting alleged corruption or the continued official concealment of “legacy commercial issues” in order to propagate overseas trade, writing, “It is a real contest between God and Mammon, morality or money, copper or conscience. At question are the values and principles of a number of government departments through a real litmus test of their integrity”.
He asks two questions:
- Should we allow civil servants to try to use UK law to favour overseas potentates and avoid offence to those who might otherwise offer us contracts, jobs and oil?
- Why should the law applied to individuals not apply also to corporates and government departments?
And ends: “We cannot, and must not, allow our government departments to be complicit in or wilfully blind to corporate corruption. So, if our new government maintains it is fighting for UK business, that’s great — but let it be honest business not dirty deals mired in a legacy of corruption”.
In 2012, Ian Foxley and Peter Gardiner, who blew the whistle on BAE a decade ago, formed Whistleblowers UK.