The Serious Fraud Office exists, as its name suggests, to detect and prosecute fraud in Britain, but satirists like to say that its initials, SFO, really stand for Serious Farce Office. For three years it has been conducting investigations into allegations concerning Saudi Arabia, with many fateful repercussions, if proved true. BAE (British Aerospace) is one of the world’s leading manufacturers of advanced military equipment including aircraft. For years it has been the leading defence contractor to the Saudis, supplying fighters and missiles worth tens of billions of pounds. In pursuit of another profitable contract for 72 Typhoons, otherwise known as Eurofighters, BAE supposedly set up a slush fund of sixty million pounds, and with this money it has been providing bakshish, apartments, Rolls-Royces and call-girls, to those Saudi princes who need such sweeteners before they unscrew their pens and sign contracts. Swiss banks are providing further evidence of corruption. Saudis habitually plead that such transactions are not in the least corrupt, but just the way they do business, a nice native custom. But several BAE executives have actually been arrested.
The SFO investigation seems to be coming to a head at last, and the Saudis are very far from pleased. To prevent exposure, they threaten to suspend all contracts, and not to sign new ones. More than that, and virtually substantiating that there is much to hide, one of the multifarious Saudi princes has rushed to Paris, where a slobbering Jacques Chirac is already drawing up a contract to replace the Typhoons with French-made Rafales. European Union means less than nothing; when money on this scale is at stake, here’s another Serious Farce all its own.
The British Attorney General, a cabinet minister and lawyer by the name of Lord Goldsmith, has the power to call off the investigation for the sake of the national interest. Not long ago, he was subjected to great pressure to give a favourable judgement on the legality of going to war in Iraq – which he duly did. Now BAE, the business world, the unions worried about British jobs, the media, are similarly pressuring him to let the Saudis have the Rolls-Royces and call-girls apparently so indispensable to them. In that case, Serious Farce Office is a description that serves its purpose. And Eurabia, here we come.