Page last updated at 08:44 GMT, Tuesday, 26 June 2007 09:44 UK

Timeline: BAE corruption probe

Image of Eurofighter seen from the front
Arms deals with Saudi Arabia have been worth billions to the UK
The furore over the SFO's decision to drop a corruption probe into a 6bn arms deal with Saudi Arabia is the latest twist in a 20-year saga.

Defence Secretary Michael Heseltine signs the first phase of the Al Yamamah arms deal with the Saudi government.

The deal covers the supply and support of Tornado and Hawk jets and a massive airbase construction programme, and is estimated to be worth 50bn.

A further formal understanding concerning Al Yamamah is signed between the UK and Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Tornado jets fly alongside RAF Tornado bombers in the First Gulf War.

May 2004
The Guardian newspaper alleges that BAE Systems has won the deal with the aid of a secret slush fund.

It claims Ministry of Defence police are investigating payments totalling 60m made during the course of the Al Yamamah deal by BAE Systems.

November 2004
BAE Systems confirms it is being investigated by the Serious Fraud Office (SFO), but strenuously denies any wrongdoing.

December 2005
BAE Systems confirms it has agreed to supply Saudi Arabia with 72 Eurofighter jets.

Talks to finalise the deal continue throughout 2006.

1 December 2006
French planemaker Dassault confirms it is in talks to sell the Rafale, a key rival to the Eurofighter, to Saudi Arabia.

BAE Systems admits that talks with Saudi Arabia over the Eurofighter deal have slowed down.

14 December 2006
The Attorney General, Lord Goldsmith, announces that the SFO is dropping its investigation.

6 January 2007
Saudi Arabia's Defence Minister Crown Prince Sultan bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud says the country is looking forward to gaining delivery of the 72 Eurofighter jets "very soon".

17 January 2007
OECD says there are "serious concerns" about the British probe being dropped.

29 April 2007
MPs warn that Britain's reputation for fighting corruption may have suffered "severe damage" because of the dropping of the fraud inquiry.

7 June 2007
A BBC investigation finds that ex-Saudi ambassador to the US, Prince Bandar bin Sultan - who negotiated a 40bn arms deal between Britain and Saudi Arabia - received secret payments for over a decade.

Prince Bandar "categorically" denies receiving any improper payments and BAE says it acted lawfully at all times.

8 June 2007

The attorney general, Lord Goldsmith, denies claims in The Guardian newspaper that he concealed from an international anti-bribery watchdog the existence of secret payments to a Saudi prince.

11 June 2007

The BBC learns that Lord Woolf, the former Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales, will head an independent review of business practices at BAE.

26 June 2007

BAE says it is the subject of an anti-corruption probe by the US Department of Justice that will look at its compliance with anti-corruption laws including its business "concerning the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia".

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