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The British Aerospace Systems (BAE) provides the air, land and sea forces with a full range of products and services that have the most advanced technologies in electronics, security and information technology. BAE have been involved in a number of corporate crimes out of which few are chosen and will be discussed in little details.
The dealings of BAE systems with Indonesia have been notorious. There is a long history of exporting Hawk jets to the country which was ruled by Suharto regime which was very vicious. The system of govern there is still corrupt and undemocratic where larger power is controlled by the military. The export of arms to Indonesia started in 1978 but in November 1996 the controversy started when the Conservative government issued license to sell 16-Hawk 209. According to BAE Hawk aircraft are single seated, light weight multi function combat plane for ground attack. At that time Indonesia was also trying to purchase F-16 which is an air defence fighter plane.
It was clear that these planes were being purchased to be used for internal oppression. It was claimed by the East Timorese leaders that Hawk jets have been used in attacks since 1978 although the conservatives denied this. While the same thing was believed by the opposition Robin and he said that Hawk jets have been used for bombings in East Timor since the 1984. Although there were extreme protests against this still the license of export was renewed. BAE systems had very huge influence on the Labour government at that time and Lord Hollick was the DTI advisor when this decision was taken. Then the UN intervened and stopped the operations in East Timor and it is very sad to say that BAE systems neither felt any guilty nor did they ever apologised on being involved in a contract with a corrupt and vicious government.
Even before the protests on deals with Indonesia the BAE system were already involved in deals with the Saudis which was one of the biggest scandals of 1980s. Financial Times published that time that in the history of BAE the arms deal called Al Yammah II was the biggest deal ever of anything to anyone. Amnesty international clearly condemned this deal with a government which has been continuously involved in the violation of human rights. BAE was the prime contractor of the deal in which 48 tornado bombers, 24 tornado fighters, 30 hawk jets and a very big number of Rapier missiles. There were corrupt commissions paid to the Arab businessmen which were worth millions of Pounds. However, it was denied by the conservative government of that time. The Saudi military was trained and advised by the BAE. Indeed the involvement was so big that it was said that the BAE not only provides the Saudi Air force with fighter jets but also runs it. It was also revealed in a TV documentary on a channel that two of the representatives of BAE were offering electro shock batons for sale which were already a part of the Al Yammah II deal in which 8000 were supplied. Although there was enough proof available it was decided by the director of Public Prosecutions that BAE will not be charged for the public interest.
In 1998 arms worth of £84million were sold to Turkey by UK. Most of these arms were supplied by the empire of BAE systems. Military components, torpedoes and tank turrets were typically included in the deal. But most terrifying were the deal of £110 million for the military satellite terminals and the deal for the manufacture of Rapier missiles struck between a Turkish company and Matra BAE Dynamics. The problem here was these huge dealings were made with a government where abuse of human rights was experienced from time to time and it was evidently seen that the Turkish military had used its weapons against the Kurds to kill them and other minorities. The Council of Europe had accused it along with other bodies of having a series of human rights violations.
In the operation of Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe BAE was happily providing the spare parts of the ageing Hawk jets being used. They were obviously being used to maintain Mugabe's rule over the Republic of Congo. At that time the foreign office wanted to stop BAE from supplying but was over ruled by the Prime minister who had very close relations with the chairman of BAE, Sir Richard Evans. The supply of spare parts was stopped by the BAE in the mid 2000 when the behaviour of Mugabe became very offensive which could not have been ignored.
It was reported by Sunday paper that the BAE had made an application to export £5million worth of military equipment to the Qataris who were then intending to gift that all to Algeria in full. This was reported to the newspaper by a Qatari officer and it was also confirmed by the DTI that such purchase order has been received and is being considered. Algeria was having ongoing conflicts inside with a record of human rights being violated at certain occasions.
Pressure on the Government and MPs:
BAE systems are the world's largest arms manufacturer and also UK's ship building industry is owned by it. There is a record of BAE threatening the government of stopping the supply of arms if it does not get the contracts it desires which shows extreme influence and power of BAE over the governments. For example, in 2001 extreme pressure was made on Mod by the BAE systems to assign all 12 of the new type of destroyer to BAE instead of splitting it with the Vosper Thorneycroft. The BAE threatened that if it did not get the full contract it will stop arms supply and will completely withdraw from the UK ship building industry.
Deliberate inflation of military spending:
BAE systems have been involved in a number of corporate crimes out of which selling military arms to corrupt and oppressive regimes is not the only one. The old saying that 'if we do not do it someone else will do it' is seen here when we see the examples of Greece, India, South Africa, Tanzania and Zimbabwe. CAAT says that wastage of scarce resources is not the only outcome of arm purchases but also international tensions are made worse which gives rise to suspicion and aggression. The real theme behind this relation between the Western arms companies and local military interests is that they can even influence governments and politicians and can make them helpless and controlled.
At the time when it was being written, the South African government decided to go into another phase of deal with the BAE systems worth £1.5 billion. This deal involved the purchase of 24 Gripen and Hawk aircrafts from SAAB. BAE holds shares in SAAB. The churches and NGOs condemned this action claiming that this will reduce the efforts against health, education and environmental issues as resources will be diverted. It was estimated by the spokesman of finance for South Africa, Raenette Taljaard that from the money that is being paid to purchase Hawk aircrafts around 4.5 million poor South Africans can get a basic grant of R100 a month or housing subsidies can be provided for 337500 homeless families. Although it is said that South Africa desperately needed those aircrafts questions are raised whether they were suitable for it or not. Although the evaluation resulted in BAE systems jets being more expensive in costs as compared to other companies the decision was taken to purchase them from BAE which shows possibility of corruption and bribery.
Greece is a NATO ally of UK therefore; on first examination selling of arms seemed to be unobjectionable, besides the fact that it is the poorest country in the European Union. But it spends a larger portion of its national income on its defence system than any other European power except Turkey. In 1999 the total defence budget for Greece was 4.9% of its total budget. 60 typhoon aircrafts were purchased from BAE systems in 2000 which costed around £5billion. And purchase of additional air attack fighter planes and submarines was also being considered. It is a disgrace that a country spends this much on its defence which cannot provide its people with complete health care and housing for its citizens. However, these problems have no meaning to BAE systems as they will sell their products to anyone who pays money.
At the end of 2001, another case of BAE selling its expensive equipments to a country which can hardly provide its citizens with a good basic living came in front. A £28million deal of Air traffic control system was approved by the Labour government to Tanzania. The per capita income is only £200 in Tanzania and the government there had to take a heavy loan from Barclays to fund the purchases of these arms. The World Bank and IMF refused to finance the deal as it seemed clearly unsuitable for a country that is not wealthy and is already in need of humanitarian help. But later the decisions were over ruled by the Prime minister and the Cabinet. It was also pointed out that the deal shows the supposed commitment of the government to the African debt relief. It is unfair that the debt relief of Tanzania is doing nothing to help the poor people over there but instead boosting up the profits of BAE.
Peter Mandelsen resigned when BAE systems was found involved in the 'Hinduja scandal' in 2001. A former advisor of the government of India claimed that the BAE has paid huge commissions to the tycoons in India to go into a deal of arms with the Air Force if India worth £1billion. When the controversy raised George Fernandez the defence minister of India resigned who was also involved in the procurement of the Hawks. Although it was an embarrassing setback the £1billion deal was still chased by the BAE aggressively. That was the time when India and Pakistan had a dispute over Kashmir and the tension was so big that would have resulted in a nuclear fight between the two countries who are already nuclear armed, that also might have destabilized both nations. Despite the fact that Tony Blair was making his efforts from Britain for a calming influence to maintain peace in the region, the Indian government was being pressurised by the defence secretary Geoff Hoon to finalize the deal of Hawks. The deal faced a very harsh criticism even within the India and UK was accused of fleecing India over Hawks.
The Guardian paper said that it has been recently admitted by the British government that British jets were sold to India which were capable of carrying nuclear arms in them. The MPs became very angry as they said that this is totally against the commitment of UK not to appreciate or help any nuclear propagation anywhere in the world.
This is very clear here now that BAE systems due to its high speciality and powerful control in the arms industry in the UK have so much influence on the government. This is clearly unacceptable as BAE uses its influence negatively. This method of influence through blackmailing and bribery should be controlled by a higher authority. If UK government itself cannot control it, then this matter should be dealt seriously by UN, as it is of serious nature. There should be strict and clear terms of trade when dealing with the sale of arms. Factors like the political situations of the regions and the economical conditions of the country itself should be clearly studied with which arms contract is going to be made. Strict checks should also be made to control any bribery and corruption inside the BAE systems and the governments and strong actions should be taken to eliminate it. If this matter is not seriously dealt with then it seems very hard to maintain peace all around the world as availability of advanced weapons could lead to violence anywhere which can spread beyond imagination.