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Last Updated: Wednesday, 7 February 2007, 22:38 GMT
BAE in several corruption probes
Eurofighter jet
Reports suggested an earlier probe threatened a Eurofighter deal
Defence firm BAE Systems is facing a series of corruption probes surrounding its activities in six countries, the government has confirmed.

Detailing the investigations - all but one were already known - is widely seen as a political move by Solicitor General Mike O'Brien.

The SFO controversially dropped a probe into a BAE arms deal with Saudi Arabia in December.

The company denied all claims of corruption, ministers said.

In a statement, BAE said the SFO's investigation had been going for three years and it could not comment on it for legal reasons.

The Serious Fraud Office is looking at claims regarding BAE in South Africa, Tanzania, Romania, Chile, the Czech Republic and Qatar.

Mr O'Brien told MPs that as well as the corruption claims, allegations of bribery and fraud in Bosnia, Nigeria, Zambia, Costa Rica and Egypt were also being investigated.

Insisting that no company was "above the law", he stressed that the government would "redouble" its efforts to tackle corruption.

Controversial decision

The SFO abandoned its investigation into bribery claims surrounding the Al Yamamah arms deal with Saudi Arabia, in which BAE was a leading player, saying it could have threatened national security.

Attorney General Lord Goldsmith justified the decision saying he believed a prosecution "could not be brought".

Media reports suggested the investigation could have threatened a major defence deal involving the Eurofighter jet.

The decision was criticised by opposition parties and by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development which said it sent the wrong message about tackling bribery and corruption.

The Liberal Democrats have called for a National Audit Office report into the Al Yamamah arms deal to be made public.

"The abandonment of this (SFO) investigation has undermined Parliament, the rule of law and Britain's reputation for implementing anti-bribery legislation," their deputy leader Vince Cable said.

Mr O'Brien's remarks came a day after the Attorney General's Office said it was launching an external review of how the SFO investigated and prosecuted fraud cases.

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