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Justice Department Opens BAE Probe, Reports L.A. Times

June 15, 2007 (EIRNS)—The Los Angeles Times reported today that the U.S. Justice Department has opened a preliminary investigation of whether the British aerospace company BAE paid bribes to win contracts in Saudi Arabia, Chile, and elsewhere. Citing several unnamed U.S. law enforcement officials, the Times says that the investigation, being conducted with the FBI's help, is focussed on whether BAE violated the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and U.S. money-laundering laws. Many of the BAE payments went through U.S. banks, notably the now-defunct Riggs Bank in Washington, D.C.

The newspaper's sources emphasized that the DOJ investigation is more extensive than previously reported. "It's not just the Saudi payments that are an issue here," said one official, adding that BAE deals with many other countries are also being scrutized, and calling it "a company-wide thing."

The Saudi side of the probe, according to U.S. law enforcement officials, centers on Prince Bandar bin Sultan, the former Saudi Ambassador to the United States, who is otherwise known to be a close ally of Vice President Dick Cheney.

The DOJ investigation will make it near-impossible for the U.S. Congress to acquiesce in the proposed BAE takeover of a major U.S. defense contractor, Armor Holdings, which produces armor for Humvees in use by American armed forces. The Times of London had reported on June 13 that BAE officials were hoping that the close relationship between Prince Bandar and the Bush family would continue to insulate them from investigation in the United States.