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BAE cops to arms-deal violation, pays $400m US fine

Also £30m in UK over shady Tanzanian radar deal

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UK-headquartered but nowadays US-centred arms globocorp BAE Systems has confessed to corporate wrongdoing and will pay hefty fines on both sides of the Atlantic.

Most of today's revelations in the case are unsurprising - BAE has reportedly confessed to violations under US law with respect to aspects of the vast, highly controversial al-Yamamah deal of the 1980s and 90s under which it supplied a variety of jets and other kit to Saudi Arabia.

The firm has also settled with the UK's Serious Fraud Office over a deal in which it sold Tanzania a radar system in 1999.

These investigations related to corruption - alleged payment of kickbacks to officials of the purchasing countries. The rough outlines of the cases were well known, and regardless of legal wrangling in western courts such bribery is well-nigh universal in developing-world arms deals.

The company has admitted to violation of US rules across a number of countries and agreed to pay a $400m fine to Washington over these and al-Yamamah.

According to an SFO statement, BAE "will plead guilty in the [UK] Crown Court to an offence under section 221 of the Companies Act 1985 of failing to keep reasonably accurate accounting records in relation to its activities in Tanzania."

It adds, "The company will pay £30 million comprising a financial order to be determined by a Crown Court judge with the balance paid as an ex gratia payment for the benefit of the people of Tanzania."

Today BAE may finally have put its bribery-haunted past behind it: the firm admits to no other such activities in recent years, when they became unambiguously illegal under UK law.

More detail on the US end of the case as we get it. ®

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