Other SFO investigations into BAE
Once the SFO had begun its investigation of BAE Systems' dealings with Saudi Arabia in November 2004, a steady procession of other deals joined the inquiry. News of each country's involvement has generally been broken by The Guardian, with little official comment. However, on 23 January 2007 the Solicitor General confirmed that BAE Systems' dealings with six other countries were still under investigation.
In September 2005 the The Guardian reported that BAE had secretly paid £1 million to General Pinochet in return for help over arms deals. The payments were said to have appeared in US banking records, unearthed by a Chilean judge pursuing General Pinochet for tax evasion. They were made between 1997 and 2004. A SFO team is reported have met the judge in Santiago.
In June 2006, with the arrest of a BAE agent, it emerged that the 2003 sale of two ex-Royal Navy frigates to Romania by BAE was under investigation by the SFO and MoD Police. Payments of £7 million in "secret commissions" were allegedly made to clinch the £116 million ship refurbishment deal.
In October 2006 the SFO raided the offices of John Bredenkamp, alleged by The Guardian to be BAE's agent in the £1.6 billion sale of Hawk and Gripen jets to South Africa in 1999. These aircraft deals formed part of a wider arms package that continues to be the subject of numerous allegations of corruptions leading, so far, to the successful prosecution of two high-profile political figures. In January 2007 a Johannesburg newspaper published details of a leaked "mutual legal assistance" request from the SFO to South African authorities. The document contained details of alleged secret payments and allegations that "there is reasonable cause to believe" that BAE and named executives had "committed offences of corruption."
In November 2006 both The Times and the The Guardian reported that the SFO was investigating the sale of a BAE military air traffic control system to Tanzania. In January 2007, following interviews with two Tanzanian middlemen, the Guardian alleged that commissions of $12 million, 30 per cent of the value of the deal, had been paid into Swiss bank accounts by BAE. An export licence for the deal had been granted in 2001 despite opposition from Clare Short, then International Development Secretary, and Gordon Brown, and a damning World Bank report.
In November 2006, the sale of Gripen fighter aircraft to the Czech Republic became linked with the SFO investigation. An initial deal to buy 24 of the aircraft was cancelled as a result of the devastating floods in 2002, however two years later a lease deal for 14 Gripen aircraft was signed. In 2003 The Guardian said that the US had accused BAE of "corrupt practice" following reports from the CIA and rival arms companies and that the Czech police had confirmed bribery attempts by BAE. In February 2007 Swedish broadcaster SVT showed hidden-camera coverage of a former Czech foreign minister admitting that "money changed hands" with politicians over the Gripen deal. That month a senior Swedish prosecutor started an investigation into the contract due to the involvement of Saab, the part-BAE-owned manufacturers of Gripen aircraft. Czech police re-opened their inquiries.
Following the sale of a package of UK arms to Qatar in 1996, BAE paid a £7m "commission" into three Jersey trust funds under the control of Qatar's Foreign Minister. A criminal investigation began in Jersey in 2000 but, with Qatari pressure, a jittery UK arms industry and Qatar's support seen as vital in prosecuting the 'war on terror', the investigation ended in 2002 on "public interest" grounds. The Qatari Foreign Minister denied any wrongdoing but agreed to pay Jersey £6m for "perceived damage". The investigation was uncovered by The Jersey Evening Post and thought to be off the SFO's agenda until the Solicitor General's recent announcement.