Thursday, June 07, 2007

BAE and the Saudi Prince

From the Guardian:
"The arms company BAE secretly paid Prince Bandar of Saudi Arabia more than £1bn in connection with Britain's biggest ever weapons contract, it is alleged today."
You'll recall that an investigation into this contract by the SFO was dropped, using the extraordinary justification that it was necessary to "balance the need to observe the rule of law against the national interest", as if what the latter entails outside the confines of the former was an easy to discern. Oliver Kamm makes the same point rather more eloquently here:
"The public interest beyond upholding the rule of law is hard to pin down; but you would have to be very trusting indeed to equate it with the transfer of vast sums to the strictly private interests of a member of the Saudi Royal Family."
Along with the 'national interest' justification, Lord Goldsmith argued that the SFO case should be dropped because it was unlikely to lead to convictions. The first is, as has already been argued, at least questionable. The second is tautologically true: the very definition of the 'national interest' in this case makes it in fact impossible for any convictions to be made. Which rather serves to illustrate the problems that arise when those who govern us imagine our interests are best served outside the rule of law.

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