BAE bribery saga takes new turn as social groups challenge ruling

Allegations of bribery against BAE Systems have come under renewed scrutiny after two social groups launched a challenge against a High Court decision to prevent a judicial review into the matter.

The Corner House and Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) have applied for an expedited oral hearing before the High Court in a bid to reverse the decision by Mr Justice Collins.

In April Collins J ruled against the groups’ application for a full judicial review into allegations that BAE had made a £1bn bribery payment to a Saudi prince to ensure a billion-dollar deal went through, on the basis of ‘national security’.

The Serious Fraud Office (SFO) had earlier dropped its investigation into the corruption and bribery allegations. At the time the Government expressed concerns that the probe might lead to Saudi Arabia withdrawing diplomatic cooperation with the UK on security and intelligence.

CAAT and Corner House contend that dropping the investigation violates the UK’s international obligations under the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development’s Anti-bribery Convention.

Article 5 of the Anti-bribery Convention forbids the termination of investigations into corruption on any grounds other than the merits of the case. There are no exemptions for national security reasons.

Leigh Day & Co, led by partner Richard Stein, is advising CAAT and Corner House. The firm has instructed Blackstone Chambers’ David Pannick QC and Dinah Rose QC alongside Matrix Chambers’ Philippe Sands QC.

A date has not yet been fixed for the expedited oral hearing as the SFO is contesting its necessity. Insiders at CAAT expect it to take place in August or September.