BAE Systems

BAE Systems, the aerospace and defence company, is poised to sign an agreement with the government of Tanzania in a move that will clear the way for it to make a long-awaited payment of £29.5m to the African nation.

The company, the Tanzanian government, the UK Department for International Development and the UK’s Serious Fraud Office will all be signatories to the memorandum of understanding, a British member of parliament revealed on Tuesday night.

“The MOU and annexes [are] close to being finalised and [are] expected to be signed in February. Under the provisions of the MOU, the payment must be made within 14 banking days of signature by all parties and will include the interest accrued on the sum before it is transferred by BAE Systems,” wrote Stephen O’Brien, a DfID minister, in response to a question put forward by Hugh Bayley, another parliamentarian.

BAE was severely criticised by a parliamentary select committee last summer for not having handed over the money to Tanzania. BAE agreed to pay an ex gratia payment of £30m to Tanzania, minus a £500,000 fine, in December 2010 to settle a six-year probe by the SFO that originally investigated alleged bribery across four continents. The company paid more than $400m to settle related US investigations.

The company said: “We note Mr O’Brien’s comments and are pleased that the MOU will be signed this month. We have been ready to make the payment for some months and have been waiting for the go-ahead from DfID to do so. We will be glad to meet the terms Mr O’Brien outlines. We look forward to bringing this matter to a close.”

The group pleaded guilty in 2010 in the UK to one offence that it had inaccurately accounted for $12.4m of payments made between 1999 and 2005 to a Tanzania-based businessman who was instrumental in securing a $40m radar system for the African nation.

BAE had originally planned to make payments to non-governmental organisations working in Tanzania, setting up a committee headed by Lord Cairns to identify worthy causes. A delegation of Tanzanian politicians came to London in June to lobby for the money to be paid directly to their government for education projects, an aim the DfID endorsed.

The select committee then in July secured an undertaking by Richard Alderman, the SFO’s director, that he would pursue BAE for contempt of court if it had not made the payment by the autumn of 2011.

“I am looking forward to the speedy resolution of this matter so that the people of Tanzania can get the benefit to their lives that these funds will bring them,” Mr Alderman told the Financial Times.

Source The Financial Times

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