Blackstone attacks govt on BAE Saudi decision

Blackstone Chambers is to launch the first legal action against the Serious Fraud Office (SFO), Attorney General and prime minister Tony Blair over the decision to drop an investigation into BAE Systems’ involvement with a Saudi Arabian defence contract.

A heavyweight team from Blackstone Chambers, including top judicial review silk David Pannick and Dinah Rose QC, have applied for judicial review with Leigh Day & Co partner Richard Stein.

Stein has been instructed by the Campaign Against the Arms Trade and environmental and social justice movement The Corner House to launch the claim, which has three main aspects.

The claimants allege that the the SFO’s decision to drop the probe into BAE was unlawful because it took into account international relations with Saudi Arabia, which is in breach of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Anti-Bribery Convention.

They also say that the Prime Minister’s advice to the SFO was unlawful for the same reason, and that it amounted to a direction rather than pure advice.

The firm is giving the defendants until Tuesday 2 January to respond to its letter before claim, after which formal proceedings will be launched for a judicial review in the High Court.

SFO director Robert Wardle announced that the two-year long investigation into allegations that BAE bribed Saudi officials to win the Al Yamamah defence contract was being dropped on Thursday (14 December).

The decision followed advice given to the SFO by the Attorney General, Lord Goldsmith, and the Prime Minister.

BAE was advised by Allen & Overy.