Mark Thatcher accused: Sources say he got 12m pounds from arms deal signed by his mother

MARK THATCHER made millions of pounds from Britain's huge Al-Yamamah arms deal with Saudi Arabia, signed in 1985 by his mother, Margaret Thatcher, when prime minister, it is alleged today.

The deal, involving more than pounds 20bn in sales of Tornado fighter-bombers and naval vessels, is believed to have been the largest in history, and the money Mark Thatcher is said to have made from helping to broker it - allegedly pounds 12m - would explain his sudden rise to conspicuous wealth.

If the allegations are proved, Baroness Thatcher's position will be, at the very least, gravely embarrassing because such a clash of public and family interests would appear to be very much at odds with accepted procedure for ministers, not least the head of the government.

The allegations will electrify the Conservative Party conference in Bournemouth, where Lady Thatcher is to attend the opening day on Tuesday. Sources close to her said she would not be making any comment until she had studied the allegations in detail.

Last night, Tam Dalyell, MP for Linlithgow, who has previously accused Mark Thatcher of benefiting hugely from Al-Yamamah, promised to raise the issue in Parliament again as soon as MPs returned to Westminster next week.

In November 1992 Mr Dalyell asked the Government to confirm or deny that 'Mark Thatcher received approximately pounds 10m soon after the signing of the memorandum of understanding for the Al- Yamamah deal in September 1985, and that the agreement on the deal specified that he would receive a further pounds 10m subsequently'.

'As soon as the House of Commons comes back, I will return to the questions I put and ask what the state of knowledge was at that time - and what it is now,' he said. 'And this time we must have some answers.'

The new allegations, in today's Sunday Times, are supported, the paper says, by transcripts of tape recordings made by Saudi intelligence agents while monitoring rival bids by Britain, France and the United States to supply the Saudis with arms.

The tapes were leaked to it by Mohammed Khiweli, the Saudi first secretary to the United Nations, who defected in May and was granted political asylum by the United States. The central new allegation is that Mark Thatcher was the indispensable contact to Lady Thatcher for the man who eventually secured the Saudi deal for British defence companies, who is named as Wafic Said, a Syrian millionaire.

Adnan Khashoggi, the international arms dealer, is quoted directly by the paper as saying: 'Wafic was using Mark's intelligence. His value to Wafic was his name, of course, and whenever Wafic needed a question answered Mark would go directly to his mother for the answer.'

The paper claims that British Aerospace executives involved in the deal at the time have confirmed Mark Thatcher's involvement, and the alleged pounds 12m commission he received. The total commission for middlemen on the deal, it says, was a remarkable pounds 240m.

In a further allegation considerably damaging to Lady Thatcher herself, the paper claims the permament secretary at the Ministry of Defence, Sir Clive Whitmore, was sent to the then prime minister to deliver what was termed a 'witch's warning' about the potentially disastrous consequences of her son's involvement. Mrs Thatcher, however, apparently ignored it, the paper says.

The Al-Yamamah arms deal was investigated by the head of the National Audit Office, Sir John Bourn, but the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee declined to publish his report after its chairman, the Labour MP Robert Sheldon, had held secert talks with the Ministry of Defence. The MoD invoked arguments of national security to veto publication of the report.

Defending the decision not to publish, Mr Sheldon said there had been 'no evidence of fraud or corruption'. However, Dr Kim Howells, a member of the PAC at the time, said last night: 'There were allegations flying about all over the place and they specifically included allegations that Mark Thatcher had been one of the main middlemen in the whole deal, and there was a hint that his mother had paved the way for him.'

He added: 'I can believe it. Everyone said if he was not the major middleman, that he was set to make more out of it than any other British middlemen.'

Mark Thatcher's business interests, as opposed to his ill- starred motor racing ambitions, first caught the public eye when he began promoting Japanese textiles in Britain. Real scandal was first associated with his name when, in 1981, his mother persuaded the government of Oman to give a pounds 300m contract to the British construction company Cementation, for which Mark was then acting as an intermediary. When the story broke in 1984, Mrs Thatcher refused to comment on her son's role, insisting instead that she had 'batted for Britain'.

The younger Thatcher subsequently moved to the United States. Now 41, he lives in Dallas with his Texan wife, Diane, and their two children. He is widely known for expensive tastes, enjoying sports cars, air travel with his butler in tow, and grand hotels.

Mr Dalyell's claim that he made huge profits from the Al- Yamamah contract was repeated last year by Howard Teicher, a Middle East expert on Ronald Reagan's National Security Council in the 1980s.

Mr Teicher said: 'I read of Mark Thatcher's involvement in this arms deal in dispatches from our embassy in Saudi Arabia, from intelligence reports that were gleaned in Saudi Arabia and Europe and in diplomatic dispatches from other European capitals. I considered these dispatches totally reliable, totally accurate.'

'I did not think that people would loosely accuse the son of the Prime Minister of being involved in such a transaction unless they were certain it was the case, and the fact that I saw his name appear in a number of different sourced documents convinced me of the authenticity of at least the basic involvement on Mark Thatcher's part. He was clearly playing some kind of role to help facilitate the completion of a transaction between the two governments.'

(Photograph omitted)

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Content Assistant / Copywriter

£15310 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity has arisen for a...

Recruitment Genius: Sewing Technician

£15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This market leader in Medical Devices is...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Manager

£24000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Situated in the heart of Bradfo...

Recruitment Genius: Senior IT Support / Projects Engineer

£26000 - £29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Day In a Page

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence