Guardian|Mar 6 2018|US investigation into BAE Saudi arms deal watered down, leaked memo suggests

by Clayton Swisher, Ewen MacAskill and Rob Evans

The outcome of a US criminal investigation into alleged bribery in a £43bn arms deal between Britain and Saudi Arabia was watered down following a secret lobbying campaign, according to a leaked document.

The confidential memo seen by the Guardian provides a rare insight into behind-the-scenes negotiations between an American law firm hired by a Saudi prince and the US Department of Justice (DoJ).

The discussions took place in the runup to the DoJ’s completion in 2010 of an investigation into the deal between Saudi Arabia and Britain’s biggest arms firm, BAE.

The Washington-based law firm boasted in the memo that it had wrung a string of concessions from investigators that led to the removal of potentially embarrassing details from an official document announcing their conclusions.

The leaked memo shows how a member of the Saudi royal family, Prince Bandar bin Sultan, hired a lobbying firm run by a former head of the FBI, Louis Freeh. According to the memo, the prince was a “key target” of the DoJ investigation after the Guardian revealed he had allegedly received more than £1bn in secret payments from BAE.

The memo was written by the firm for the Saudi ambassador to the US in January 2010.

The firm claimed that its “relentless” work, including “dozens of meetings, calls etc with BAE lawyers and very senior US government officials”, had persuaded DoJ investigators to remove anything identifying Bandar from the official document announcing the conclusion of the investigation into the alleged bribery.

Any details of the allegedly corrupt payments to Bandar had also been deleted from the draft document, leading the firm, Freeh Sporkin & Sullivan (FSS), to claim that it had achieved the “remarkable result” of getting the prince “cleared” in the investigation.

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The New Republic|May 5, 2009|Freeh Fall

by Michael Crowley

During his tenure as FBI director, Louis J. Freeh struggled to raise a family of eight on a government salary. By the time he stepped down in 2001, his house was heavily mortgaged and he could be seen flying in coach class. Since leaving the Bureau, however, Freeh has earned a handsome salary. He first spent several years as a top lawyer for the credit-card giant mbna before opening his own firm in 2007, Freeh Group International, which bills itself as “a global consulting enterprise,” specializing in advising a “select” group of (mostly undisclosed) clients on the niceties of international accounting and anti-corruption laws.

In the grand scheme of post-government careers, this might not seem so extraordinary were it not for one remarkable member of Freeh’s “select” clients: Prince Bandar bin Sultan, the former Saudi Arabian ambassador to the United States. Currently accused of illegally siphoning as much as $2 billion from a Saudi-British arms deal, Bandar has hired Freeh as his lawyer.

One also wonders what Freeh may have been thinking privately at the time. He is, after all, hardly the first senior U.S. official to wind up on the Saudi dole after leaving government. It has become shamefully routine for former U.S. ambassadors to Saudi Arabia to land on the kingdom’s payroll. “If the reputation … builds that the Saudis take care of friends when they leave office, you’d be surprised how much better friends you have who are just coming into office,” Bandar once quipped, according to The Washington Post.

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Los Angeles Times|Apr 7, 2009| Former FBI chief defends flow of money to Saudi ambassador

By Tom Hamburger and Josh Meyer

WASHINGTON — Former FBI Director Louis J. Freeh says $2 billion that flowed from a British arms manufacturer to U.S. bank accounts controlled by Prince Bandar bin Sultan, then Saudi ambassador to the U.S., was not a bribe, but was instead part of a complex barter involving the exchange of Saudi oil for British fighter jets.

The transfer of funds to accounts at Riggs Bank in Washington, D.C., has come under scrutiny as the Justice Department continues an international corruption investigation involving British arms manufacturer BAE Systems. Freeh, who is now a lawyer and consultant for Bandar, made his comments to the Public Broadcasting Service for a “Frontline” documentary to be broadcast this evening. Bandar is now a national security advisor to the Saudi king. He has denied any wrongdoing, as have other Saudi officials.

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Frontline April 2009 | Extended Interview With Louis Freeh Former FBI Director, now attorney to Prince Bandar

As the head of his own global consulting firm, Freeh Group International, Louis Freeh has been hired by Prince Bandar as his legal representative on issues surrounding the Al-Yamamah arms deal. Lowell Bergman interviewed Louis Freeh on March 19, 2009 about allegations — that Freeh insists are untrue — that his client received approximately $2 billion and a wide-body Airbus 340 from arms company BAE Systems as part of the massive arms contract. Freeh finally agreed to be interviewed just weeks before our airdate, following months of requests by FRONTLINE for interviews with both Freeh and Prince Bandar.

Freeh was interviewed for the FRONTLINE film Black Money, which details the allegations of bribery leveled at BAE Systems and the Prince. This video contains extended excerpts of Bergman’s interview with Freeh — the first time anyone has spoken publicly on behalf of Prince Bandar about these allegations. Throughout this interview, there are markers referring to the footnotes below, which provide added context and corrections.

Go to the interview