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UK: Labour peer calls for inquiry into Ministry of Defence over Saudi bribe allegations

Peter Hain said government auditors must investigate claims that the MoD approved bribes to Saudi officials to secure arms deals
Lord Peter Hain speaks in the House of Lords, the UK's upper chamber of parliament, in London on 25 October 2018 (AFP)

Labour peer Peter Hain has called for a “timely and targeted” investigation into alleged Ministry of Defence (MoD) involvement in bribes paid to senior Saudi Arabia officials.

Two men were acquitted in March of paying seven and eight-figure bribes to high-ranking Saudi officials after their lawyers argued that the British government had long known about and authorised the payments to secure a huge UK arms deal, known as Sangcom.

Allegedly, at least £10m ($12.3m) was paid to the head of the Saudi Arabian national guard, Prince Mutaib bin Abdullah, to secure a contract for military communication networks as part of the deal.

Internal MoD documents disclosed at the trial revealed a slew of other undisclosed financial arrangements and arms deals, including the MoD’s involvement in multimillion-pound payments to Prince Bandar bin Sultan, as part of the al-Yamamah fighter jet deal.

In a letter to the National Audit Office, Hain urged government auditors to “rigorously review” government department financial practices “so that the lessons can be learned, both to protect public taxpayers’ money in the defence sector and to ensure that government departments are rigorously reviewed for how they handle contracting arrangements and funds on government-to-government contracts.

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“It is imperative that the National Audit Office conduct a timely, targeted investigation to establish and report on the facts, and for parliamentarians and the public to understand the MoD’s role in this national scandal and any ongoing corruption risks,” he said.

Prince Mutaib, a son of the late Saudi King Abdullah, was stripped of his ministerial portfolio and arrested in November 2017, as part of an ostensible crackdown on royal corruption by Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

He secured his freedom after reportedly paying Saudi authorities a settlement worth billions of dollars.

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