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Money Talks, Investigations Walk, Weapons Fly: British Abandon Saudi Bribery Investigations

RAF Eurofighter
(click to view full)

Back in 2005, DID reported that talks were underway for a Saudi purchase of Eurofighter Typhoon aircraft from Britain's BAE Systems - with an important (albeit denied) set of conditions on the Saudi side. December 2005 saw confirmation that Saudi Arabia has ordered Eurofighter Typhoon fighters, ostensibly to replace many of the Tornado aircraft BAE has provided to Saudi Arabia since 1985. For those less familiar with modern combat aircraft, the Eurofighter Typhoon's overall air-air performance may rank it behind only America's F-22A Raptor stealth fighter. It's also receiving a slow set of upgrades, pod additions, et. al. that will make it a serviceable strike aircraft.

The Financial Times reported from its sources that the Saudi agreement is understood to be for 48 Eurofighter Typhoon jets, with an option for a further 24 (total: 72). This would have been Phase 3 of the arms-for-oil Al-Yamamah ("dove") arrangement between the Saudis and BAE, and arrangement whose value to date was once pegged at 43 billion pounds (about $80 billion) by BAE executive Mike Turner.

While both BAE and the UK Ministry of Defence have kept mum about the precise contract value, the BBC has said that the deal is rumored to be worth more than GBP 6 billion ($11.7 billion); the Saudis' preference for "contractor does everything" maintenance could drive the award significantly higher, and some figures place the total value as high as 30 billion pounds over 30 years. Government to government "understandings" were signed in August 2006 that appeared to clear the way for the deal, but BAE recently admitted that the deal has stalled in the face of a significant fraud investigation of Saudi players and major public revelations about details of the Al-Yamamah accords. Meanwhile, rumors that the Saudis may be about to buy French Rafale jets have been keeping things very interesting.

That's still true, though the path to buy EADS & BAE's Eurofighters may be clearer now that British investigators have formally abandoned all fraud investigations related to Al-Yamamah. One of the reasons is actually legit. The other, same old same old.

Defense Industry Daily has the coverage, including links to the appropriate background documents re: details of the al-Yamamah accords.


Inter arma enim silent leges.

"In the face of arms, the law falls silent."

The old maxim has broad reach.

"He who pays the piper calls the tune"

Really, is anyone surprised about this? 80 billion is the difference between a viable defence industry and buying from America forever.

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