Improving Britain’s ability to convict those paying bribes in arms deals

Deception in High Places by Nicholas Gilby
Deception in High Places by Nicholas Gilby

In the past the authorities in the United States have been much more successful in prosecuting foreign bribery by their companies than the authorities in Britain.

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s latest report on steps taken to implement and enforce the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention in the United Kingdom is far more scanty than that for the United States (even after allowing for the fact the economy of the United States is much bigger than the UK’s).  Further, since the Bribery Act 2010 came into force in the UK almost three years ago, there has been no conviction of anyone for foreign bribery under the Act. And last year, in 2013, there was only one conviction of someone for foreign bribery under the previous legislation. So how can the UK improve its record, and what should those wishing to see this happen do?

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Peace activists raise questions about trident at Rolls Royce AGM

Activists raise questions at Rolls Royce' AGM
Activists raise questions at Rolls Royce’ AGM

This morning a group of peace activists from Sheffield used Rolls Royce’ AGM as a chance to challenge the board about their involvement with the development and production of propulsion systems for Trident submarines.

The activists highlighted the fact that power of a Trident submarine is 1000 times more destructive than the bomb used at Hiroshima and asked what the company’s response would be to a Trident nuclear strike, and what they anticipated the impact would be on shareholders.

The activists also held up banners that said “No More Trident” and “Trident Kills.” They asked further questions about alternative uses for Roils Royce engineering expertise, such as green energy to sustain the planet, and whether taxpayers would have to pay for Rolls Royce’s lost investment, if Trident was not replaced.

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Prince Charles’ dance of shame

Charles dressing for a 'sword dance'
Prince Charles joined Saudi Arabia’s autocratic rulers in a ceremonial sword dance. Saudi Arabia executed more than 70 people last year, mostly by public decapitation with a sword. Image: AFP/Getty

This week Prince Charles flew to Saudi Arabia and danced for its autocratic rulers. The next day Saudi Arabia and arms company BAE Systems announced they had finalised their latest multi-billion pound weapons deal.

Charles was in Saudi Arabia at the request of the UK government’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office. BAE’s share price was set to fall this week unless agreement could be reached on its latest sales of Eurofighter Typhoon fighter jets to Saudi Arabia, so the UK government sent in the royals to seal the deal. As a Buckingham Palace spokesperson has said “Middle East potentates like meeting princes.”

Human rights organisations had highlighted Saudi Arabia’s appalling record on human rights and urged Charles to use his visit to promote reform. Instead he has sent a clear signal of support for repression.

 Please sign CAAT’s petition to challenge the Royal Family’s complicity in arms dealing.

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Royal help for BAE

Picture of Prince Andrew in military uniform
Prince Andrew: Royal help for BAE

Prince Andrew is in action right now, propping up dictators and BAE’s weapons sales. He’s not alone: senior Ministers, members of the RAF and civil servants are all at the Bahrain International Airshow helping promote BAE’s Typhoon warplanes to Bahrain’s dictators.

King Hamad of Bahrain has overseen a brutal crackdown on his own people. Those who speak up for democratic reform face being tortured and locked up, or sent into exile.

Bahrain has no military need for BAE’s Typhoons, but it does have a political need: it knows that buying UK weapons can also buy UK silence on Bahrain’s human rights abuses.

> Please take action: the UK must support human rights not repression.

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The ‘arms for dictators’ scandal isn’t new. It is cross-party, well-established and has been going on for too long

The British government actively promotes the Eurofighter Typhoon to foreign government. This scene comes from  the Farnborough arms fair in 2012.
The British government actively promotes the Eurofighter Typhoon to foreign governments. This scene comes from the Farnborough arms fair in 2012.

The fringe issue of arms export criteria became headline news today (17 July),  with The Independent’s splash on an “‘arms for dictators” scandal. A parliamentary report by the Committees on Arms Export Controls (CAEC) raised a few eyebrows, but the embarrassment of the government approving arms sales to 25 out of 27 of the countries blacklisted as human rights abusers will soon vanish.

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The award BAE’s Olver wouldn’t accept

Symon eviction video still
A shareholder activist is evicted from the AGM

What do you get for leading an arms company facing billion-dollar corruption investigations?

Well, BAE’s outgoing Chairman, Dick Olver, has been given a knighthood for his “services to business.”

CAAT had already recognised Olver’s ‘achievements’ at the company’s recent AGM, presenting him with our own prestigious “Whitewash Award.”

Sadly, he was too shy to let us finish our heartfelt tribute – but you can read the full speech below, and watch a video of the award ceremony (with other highlights from Olver’s last ever AGM).

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Don’t let Saudi Arabia get away with it!

A protester holds a CAAT placard saying "You can't do this in Riyadh".The news from Saudi Arabia that the authorities intend to surgically paralyse a young man as a judicial punishment has led to worldwide revulsion. The logic behind the punishment is that ten years earlier Ali al-Khawahir had stabbed a friend in the back resulting in his paralysis and therefore should suffer the same fate.
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Arms companies at the Big Bang Fair

IMAG0263

Britain’s largest science and engineering fair for young people, which took place last month, was sponsored and supported by a total of five major arms companies, including the world’s third largest weapons manufacturer, BAE Systems.

General Dynamics, Rolls Royce, Thales and Selex ES also have sponsorship deals with the Big Bang Fair. As part of the deal, the arms companies enjoy a stand at the fair, from which they can promote themselves to young people.

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Cathedral cancels arms trade event

S&P-dinner-cancelled

We’ve found arms trade events in some unlikely locations before: under the dinosaur in the Natural History Museum, or in the National Gallery, surrounded by paintings which ‘enrich life’.

But finding the Gala Dinner for an arms fair in a place of worship – a Cathedral no less – probably tops the bill!

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Cameron takes arms dealers to India

David Cameron has just returned from yet another overseas trade mission – this time to India.

It’s been billed as the largest UK trade mission ever, with over 100 delegates – government ministers, MPs, “leaders of industry”, university grandees and assorted hangers-on. In the name of cementing trade ties we have seen Cameron playing cricket, laying wreaths and promising quicker visas for Indian students.

"Would you like to buy this Eurofighter Typhoon, sir?"
“Would you like to buy this Eurofighter Typhoon, sir?”

All this flummery rather disguises the main aim of the trade mission to flog arms to India, which in recent years has emerged as one of the world’s largest arms buyers. So it is worth having a closer look at who accompanied Cameron and what they might be selling.

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