Collins J refuses judicial review into BAE plea bargain settlement

Mr Justice Collins has rejected a High Court bid to bring a judicial review of the Serious Fraud Office’s (SFO) decision to agree a plea bargain settlement with BAE Systems.

Leigh Day & Co partner Richard Stein instructed Blackstone Chambers’ Dinah Rose QC to mount the challenge on behalf of campaign groups The Corner House  and The Campaign Against Arms.

The SFO announced in February that it would bring to an end a five-year investigation into BAE by agreeing that the company should plead guilty in court only to “accounting irregularities” in its 1999 sale of a radar system to Tanzania and would pay penalties of £30m (10 February 2010).

The investigation spanned five years and was triggered by suspicions that BAE used a worldwide network of more than 200 agents to bribe officials in at least six countries.

But the regulator said it would not bring prosecutions relating to alleged bribery and corruption in BAE’s  arms deals elsewhere, including in the Czech Republic, South Africa and Romania, and would close all its BAE investigations.

In the US, where BAE was advised by Linklaters US head Larry Byrne, the company agreed to pay a $400m (£255.5m) fine and pled guilty to one charge of conspiracy to make false statements to the government.

This is the second time CAAT and the  Corner House have unsuccessfully attempted to bring a judicial review against an SFO decision to settle investigations into BAE.

In 2008 the campaign groups instructed Stein and Rose to drop an SFO investigation into BAE’s arms deals with Saudi Arabia.

Although that bid was rejected, Rose managed to force former Prime Minister Tony Blair to admit that the Saudis had effectively forced the UK into withdrawing the case by threatening to withdraw intelligence-sharing (30 July 2008).

While Collins J rejected the judicial review bid, he extended the injunction in force

against the SFO from seeking court approval of its BAE settlement for a further eight days pending an appeal from the campaign groups.