The U.K.'s Serious Fraud Office on Friday charged one of BAE's former middlemen, Count Alfons Mensdorff-Pouilly, with bribery in connection with arms sales to countries in Eastern and Central Europe. He was formally accused of "conspiracy to corrupt, contrary to section 1 of the Criminal Law Act 1977."
The SFO alleged that Mensdorff-Pouilly, 56, conspired with others from 2002 though 2008 to bribe government officials and representatives from the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Austria. The bribes were intended to secure contracts from those governments for the sale of SAAB/Gripen fighter jets marketed by BAe Systems plc.
David Leigh and Rob Evans, the investigative journalists from the Guardian who first reported BAE's alleged corrupt selling practices nearly five years ago, said Friday that Mensdorff-Pouilly's prosecution still needs approval from Britain's attorney general, Lady Scotland. Mensdorff-Pouilly lives in Luising, Austria and is an Austrian citizen. The attorney general hasn't yet agreed to let the case proceed, the SFO's lawyers said, and they asked the court for a month-long adjournment while she decides.
These are the first criminal charges arising from the investigation of BAE's practices.
The SFO dropped an investigation in December 2006 into allegations the company bribed members of the Saudi Arabian government in exchange for the sale of Typhoon jet fighters. The SFO said it had to abandon the case after Saudi Arabia threatened to end anti-terrorism cooperation with the British government.
The U.S. Justice Department is reportedly still investigating BAE's payments of about $2 billion to Saudi Prince Bandar bin Sultan. He was formerly ambassador to the United States and some of the payments allegedly passed through U.S. bank accounts he controlled.
The SFO on Friday said its current investigation of BAE has involved collaboration with the Vienna (Austria) Prosecution Office (Staatsanwaltschaft Wien) and police (Bundeskriminalamt) and was coordinated with help from Eurojust. The SFO said it also had help from Czech, Hungarian and Swiss authorities.
View a copy of the Serious Fraud Office's January 29, 2010 release here.