Lawyers split on govt deal to drop BAE SFO probe

Allen & Overy and its client BAE Systems were celebrating this morning after the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) sensationally dropped its investigation into the company’s involvement with the Al Yamamah defence contract with Saudi Arabia.

According to an SFO source close to the BAE inquiry the discontinuation of
the investigation is unprecedented.

“On the basis of the reasons the Attorney-General gave for abandoning the SFO investigation, this is an unprecedented move. Political reasons have not before entered into any reasons for discontinuing a case,” said the lawyer.

However 6 King’s Bench Walk chambers head and fraud specialist Roy Amlot QC disagreed, saying: “There have undoubtedly been cases where there probably has been enough evidence, but there’s been overriding public considerations.”

Allen & Overy has been advising BAE through the investigation, which has been running for over two years before the SFO announced last night (Thursday 14 December) that it had decided to drop it.

In a statement the SFO said: “This decision has been taken following representations that have been made both to the Attorney General and the Director of the SFO concerning the need to safeguard national and international security. It has been necessary to balance the need to maintain the rule of law against the wider public interest.”

A BAE spokesperson welcomed the decision.