INDEPENDENT COMMENT ON THE AITKEN AFFAIR

Click to follow
The Independent Online
There are remarkably few things that governments forbid companies to do. Of these, perhaps the most important, is the supply of weapons to an unfriendly foreign power, or one involved in military activity that is against British interests.

It is now clear that BMARC, the company of which Jonathan Aitken was a director, supplied naval guns to Iran in contravention of just such a government embargo.

This took place when Mr Aitken, now Treasury Chief Secretary, was a senior backbencher; it was referred to at BMARC board meetings as "Project Lisi". In the company's monthly report to directors the guns were marked for delivery in kit form to Singapore. There they were assembled and sent to Iran.

Yet through the Scott Inquiry on arms to Iraq, and now in the documents revealed by this newspaper today, it emerges that during the period of the arms embargo to the Middle East, British companies were making money out of illegal arms sales.

Mr Aitken has denied any knowledge of arms sales to Iran.

He has told others that he has never heard of Project Lisi. At a critical board meeting he left, he says, before the relevant agenda item. Had he known about the flouting of the embargo he would not have countenanced it.

Directors of companies are required to exercise "due diligence". One of the most obvious potential problem areas for an arms exporting company is observance of government restrictions. Yet Mr Aitken says that he knew nothing about it. Is the British public really supposed to feel satisfied with this? We do not think so.

Comments