Former UK SFO director Richard Wardle acted "courageously" in closing down a us$4 billion bribery case in a state-backed arms deal between the United Kingdom and Saudi Arabia.NEWS Serious fraud officials in the United Kingdom have won an appeal - against one of their own cases, the country's biggest. The Serious Fraud Office earlier this year decided against proceeding with the country's biggest corruption scandal, involving allegations of bribery in a US$86 billion arms deal with Saudi Arabia. A high court ruling against that decision was challenged by the SFO, claiming that "national security" was at stake. Former SFO director Richard Wardle appealed to the House of Lords, the supreme court in the United Kingdom. In what the Times Online reports as a "resounding victory" five law lords ruled that Wardle acted lawfully and “courageously” concluding he had no option but to halt the inquiry in the interests of national security. Some US$4 billion in bribes have been widely reported as being paid by the state-linked British armaments manufacturer, BAE Systems. SFO's decision to drop the bribery inquiry was challenged by campaign groups, The CornerHouse, and CAAT, the Campaign Against Arms Trade. "The judgment means that those with powerful friends prepared to make threats can effectively evade justice, particularly if the threats are couched in terms of national security," reads a statement on the CAAT site posted in response to yesterday's House of Lords ruling.
"The ruling also confirms that the UK government has driven a coach and horses through a key international anti-bribery convention to protect its friends in BAE."In seeking a declaratory judgement from the High Court, the groups claimed the case was dropped because of pressure from Saudi Arabia to stop the bribery inquiry. Both groups put positive spin on the setback, but the ruling sets a precedent globally that other first world governments could use to stamp out similar anti-corruption probes. This includes New Zealand, where the SFO was recently disbanded in favour of a Police unit, and Australia, where an inquiry into a $300 million bribery case has been criticised as a white-wash. LINKS Cornerhouse CAAT news release HEADLINES