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Last Updated: Friday, 21 September 2007, 03:59 GMT 04:59 UK
UK confirms US BAE probe request
BAE Systems has just won a new deal from Saudi Arabia
The Home Office has confirmed it is considering a US government request for legal help in its anti-corruption investigation into UK defence firm BAE.

The US Department of Justice is looking into allegations that BAE ran a fund to help it win plane and military equipment orders from Saudi Arabia.

UK ministers stopped a British inquiry into the claims in December, saying it was compromising national interests.

The company has always argued that it acted lawfully at all times.

'Due consideration'

The allegations of corruption over BAE's past sales to Saudi Arabia centre on the 43bn Al-Yamamah deal in 1985, which provided Hawk and Tornado jets plus other military equipment.

Although the Serious Fraud Office investigation was halted, the matter is still being investigated by the US Department of Justice, which started its own inquiries in June.

On Friday the Home Office confirmed it had been asked to help the US investigation but denied claims the request had not been acted on since it was submitted two months ago.

The request for mutual legal assistance (MLA) was receiving "due consideration", a Home Office spokesman said.

"This is certainly not an unprecedented length of time for a case of this complexity to be considered."

Meanwhile a BAE shareholder has begun legal action against the firm alleging that BAE bosses failed to carry out their duties when they agreed to the 1985 sale.

It has been brought by pension fund, The City of Harper Woods Employees' Retirement System and alleges the controversial deal involved illegal bribes, kickbacks and other payments being made.

Class action

It accuses BAE of giving more than $2bn (1bn) of illegal bribes to Saudi Prince Bandar bin Sultan.

Such allegations were aired by the BBC in June, but Mr Bandar has "categorically" denied receiving any improper payments and BAE says it acted lawfully at all times.

The legal case names both current BAE chief executive Mike Turner and Prince Bandar.

Law firm Coughlin Stoia Geller Rudman & Robbins said other shareholder were expected to join the suit, turning it into a class action.

A BAE spokesman said the company would "vigorously" defend the case.

Earlier this month the UK Ministry of Defence announced that Saudi Arabia is to buy 72 Eurofigher Typhoon jets from BAE Systems, in a deal worth up to 20bn.

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