Thursday, September 15, 2005


Why would an arms company make huge payments to a leader years after he left power?

Leigh and Evans report in The Guardian that The Serious Fraud Office is expected to launch an investigation into disclosures that the arms company BAE secretly paid more than £1m to the former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet. The Guardian revealed yesterday how BAE had been identified in US banking records as routing the payments through front companies between 1997 and last year. Pinochet stepped down in 1990. This is a payoff, evidently for silence. But there's more: The SFO investigation is expected to be combined with the existing inquiry into allegations that BAE also ran a £60m slush fund to pay members of the ruling family in Saudi Arabia. That investigation is proceeding vigorously, with the arrest last month of former wing-commander Tony Winship, a BAE paid consultant, and his chauffeur David Baron, on suspicion of money-laundering. They were released without charge after questioning. Proceeding vigorously where? It sounds as if BAE is paying off clients too important for the British government to expose.
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