Bandar Bush, once more: the BAE scandal

Guess who was on the receiving end of the bribes BAE was paying?

It hasn’t been getting much press here, but the UK High Court just rapped the knuckes of the government hard over the BAE case, in which a UK company, with the approval of the Blair government, made huge payoffs to get Saudi defense contracts and the government then ordered the resulting criminal inquiry shut down. The excuse was pressure from the Saudi government, but keeping egg off the then-Prime Minister’s face seems to have been part of the real motivation.

The Saudi official on the receiving end of $2 billion in bribes? Why, it’s our old friend Prince Bandar bin Sultan, aka “Bandar Bush.”

bush and bandar.jpg

The BAE payments went to Prince Bandar’s account at the Riggs Bank, where GWB’s Uncle Jonathan was a senior executive. That was the account from which Bandar withdrew millions of dollars in cash before 9/11 without filling out any of the required paperwork for cash transactions. We still don’t know where that money went. A different account at Riggs, in the name of Prince Bandar’s wife, sent money, through an intermediary, to two of the 9/11 terrorists.

If Michael Moore hadn’t insisted in clogging up Fahrenheit 911 with a bunch of nonsense, that movie might have managed to move the Bush-Saudi connection (more generally, the Saudi connection to many of the power centers in this country) to the political and journalistic front burner. What a pity!

Fortunately for Barack Obama if his staff is alert, there is a US handle to this issue. Because some of the components of the Typhoon fighter involve US-controlled technology, the contract BAE paid those bribes to get can’t be fulfilled without a technology-export license from the U.S. State Department. State wants to issue the license, but to do so it has to certify that as far as it knows no laws were broken in obtaining the contract: a claim that would be transparently false. The Justice Department is resisting, and the matter is currently subject to an inter-agency tug-of-war.

For the US Government to issue the license would clearly put us on the side of the bribors and the bribees as against those trying to bring them to justice. It would be one more act of subservience to the Bani Saud. I’d like to hear my favorite candidate call for withholding those licenses until the criminal investigations, in the UK and here in the US, have run their course.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: