The UK’s Serious Fraud Office (SFO) spent 6 years chasing BAE Systems, over allegations that bribes were paid to secure foreign deals in a number of countries. Bribes are the least of the allegations involved in some international defense deals, and contract wins without inducements would be far more surprising in countries like Saudi Arabia, Tanzania, and South Africa. Nevertheless, the UK does have laws to prevent British firms from paying them.
An SFO investigation into the giant Saudi Al-Yamamah aircraft deal was killed in December 2006 on national security grounds, after the Saudis threatened to cut off anti-terrorism cooperation and intelligence sharing. The government’s decision was upheld by the British House of Lords, but the SFO continued to pursue other reports concerning Chile, the Czech Republic, Romania, South Africa, Tanzania, and Qatar. The US Department of Justice, meanwhile, never let go of the Saudi deal.
In 2010 a settlement was reached that included the SFO – and the US DoJ, which got the lion’s share. A held-up deal with Tanzania then settled in early 2012. By 2013 this left an “investigation” in South Africa, and a Czech case with little apparent progress.