Arms campaigners fight death trade dirty tricks

IssueMarch 2007

Our corruption correspondent writes: Britain's biggest contributor to the global death trade - BAE Systems - is fighting attempts by campaigners to expose its dirty tricks campaign against its opponents.

As reported in the last PN, the Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) wants a judicial review of the government's decision to drop legal action against BAES over alleged corruption relating to its sale of weapons to Saudi Arabia. The preliminary court case referred to in that PN report was an application for an injunction ordering BAES not to destroy any of CAAT's documents it held. This followed BAES's lawyers telling CAAT's lawyers - as legal propriety required them to - that they had seen an internal CAAT document which the company had got hold of, which related to the judicial review application.

Money as a weapon

Having won the emergency order telling BAES not to destroy anything relevant, CAAT went back to the High Court on 2 February seeking a fuller injunction that all of CAAT's documents held by the company should be handed over, and that BAES should explain how it got them and who at the company had seen them.

BAES resisted this application - including indirectly, by arguing that there should be no cap on the legal costs CAAT should have to pay them if the application was not granted.

The judge on 2 February accepted that a costs cap already in place from the previous hearing should continue at least for the duration of the disclosure order application he was then in the middle of. But his ruling on the disclosure order itself is still awaited as PN goes to press, almost three weeks later.

Win or be scuppered

Some years ago, as revealed in the Sunday Times back in 2003, BAES was spending over #100,000 a year on investigating and infiltrating CAAT, with the help of private detectives.

Unless CAAT can win this disclosure order, and trace how the company is again getting hold of its private documents, it will be virtually impossible for the campaigners to have confidential consultations about their legal plans, and hence the application for a judicial review of the dropping of the corruption case almost certainly can't go ahead.

Topics: Arms trade