British Aerospace chief's Mayfair flat linked to fixer in Saudi arms deal

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The chief executive of British Aerospace is living in a luxury Mayfair apartment linked to a Middle Eastern businessman who helped the company clinch a pounds 15bn arms deal with Saudi Arabia. BAe told Ian Burrell that Sir Richard Evans had done nothing wrong.

BAe was the prime contractor in the 1986 Al-Yamamah deal, under which it supplied the Saudis with Tornado and Hawk aircraft as part of a package which included guns, bombs and electronics from other contractors. In return, Britain received pounds 15bn of Saudi oil.

Wafic Said, a controversial Syrian-born fixer and friend of Mark Thatcher, son of the former prime minister, played a key intermediary role in the deal. Al-Yamamah was the making of Sir Richard Evans, BAe's chief executive. It helped him on his way to a knighthood and a salary package in excess of pounds 500,000. He and Mr Said also became good friends.

Yesterday an Observer report said Sir Richard was living in a penthouse flat in Rosebery Court, Mayfair, which is owned by a secretive Panamanian company run until recently from Mr Said's offices in Park Lane. BAe said Sir Richard leased the flat. "It's very simple," said a spokesman. "Dick Evans leases a flat, which he pays for. He does not own the flat. He leases it and he pays the money to a law firm. It's a private matter."

Sir Richard, who has lived at Rosebery Court for 10 years, told the Observer he had no idea of Mr Said's links to the flat. But Charles Allworth, former concierge for the 22 flats, valued at pounds 750,000 each, told the paper in an affidavit that the apartment occupied by Sir Richard had been owned by the Syrian. "Wafic Said had the keys and I knew him to be the owner. He used to come in a big car accompanied by bodyguards. To my knowledge, he never spent a night there." One day Mr Said arrived with the BAe chief. "Mr Said told me Mr Evans would be living in the flat. The two men were obviously good friends," said Mr Allworth.

Alex Sanson, a former BAe marketing director, told the paper Mr Said played a pivotal role in Al-Yamamah.

"Evans was one of the people Wafic would want to suck up to."

The flat is owned by a company called Knightsbridge Enterprises which took out a 99-year lease on it in June 1987. The company is registered in Panama but was initially run from Mr Said's offices at 49 Park Lane. The flat's affairs are now handled by Keirs and Co, a firm of solicitors in London. Around the time Sir Richard moved to the flat, Mark Thatcher, who has also been linked to the Al-Yamamah deal, moved to a pounds 1m house in Eaton Terrace, Belgravia. It was owned by a Panamanian company, Formigol, also registered at 49 Park Lane, Mr Said's business address.