The government must decide whether to prosecute over the BAE Systems bribery scandal—after letting the arms trader off the hook last time.
A north London court last week charged Austrian Count Alfons Mensdorff-Pouilly with making “corrupt payments to unknown officials and other agents”.
This is the first ever criminal case in the long-running corruption investigation.
The charges relate to him acting as a “middleman” for BAE fighter jet sales in eastern Europe.
The Serious Fraud Office says that the European aristocrat, who owns a castle in Scotland, was sent to Hungary and the Czech Republic to deliver bribe payments.
At least five more people face similar charges—but none are likely to be serving BAE employees.
The company itself wanted to get off with just paying a fine.
But it has refused to pay the £300 million so far demanded for a plea bargain.
Meanwhile the criminal prosecution of the company itself is going ahead.
The files will soon land on the desk of attorney general Baroness Scotland—who has the power to halt the case.
A previous investigation into £43 billion of bribes to Saudi Arabia was called off after the government intervened in 2006.
BAE Systems had transferred hundreds of millions of pounds into accounts controlled by Prince Bandar, the son of Saudi defence minister Prince Sultan.
Bandar got Tony Blair to call off the corruption inquiry.
Now the fraud squad has spent another six years investigating BAE’s web of bribes across Eastern Europe, South Africa and Tanzania.
But don’t hold your breath for the government to decide to prosecute.
The FBI in the US has charged three British executives with conspiracy over a £9 million arms sale.
They are accused of paying bribes to the arms minister of an African country as part of a sting operation.