Ministers accused of making profits from Iraqi arms sales

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The Independent Online
ALLEGATIONS that some ministers and Whitehall officials profited personally from arms sales to Iraq have been made to the Scott inquiry.

The claims have been made in a private correspondence between Lord Justice Scott and a retired high-ranking intelligence officer.

On 28 September, Kenneth de Courcy, a wartime intelligence officer, wrote to Lord Justice Scott telling him of a visit he had recently received from three businessmen. Mr de Courcy is the founder of Intelligence Digest, a newsletter aimed at the Government and intelligence communities.

His three visitors were Gerald James, former chairman of Astra, the British munitions manufacturer; Michael Cruddas, a city businessman; and Tim Laxton, a city accountant. They went to Mr de Courcy to see if he could use his connections and influence to have their claims examined.

The three alleged that a London property company had been used to finance the supply of arms to Iraq. The company was owned by a secret Liechtenstein trust and was linked to a wealthy Iranian based in London. The Iranian had fled before the downfall of the Shah and was a fierce opponent of the Khomeini regime.

Since coming to London he had established close ties with senior Tories and party officials. His company, the men claimed, had pounds 200m a year to spend on arms, with part of the money going to officials and politicians.

Mr James said that Gerald Bull, the Supergun inventor, had told an Astra colleague of payments to officials and ministers in Britain and Belgium - on the day Mr Bull was mysteriously murdered in Brussels.

The three also supplied details of meetings between Asil Nadir, whom they claimed to be a link man, and arms dealers and senior Tories. The most recent of those was said to have taken place in London last autumn, almost two years after the Polly Peck tycoon's arrest and six months before his sudden flight to northern Cyprus. They also supplied Mr de Courcy with details of a secret society known as the Parlour. It drew members from industrialists involved in the arms trade, the City and Conservative benefactors.

According to the three men, the Parlour played a key role as a link between the Conservative Party and the weapons industry.

Mr de Courcy was so concerned that he immediately wrote to Lord Justice Scott, asking that the three be called as inquiry witnesses.

Last week Lord Justice Scott wrote back, requesting further information and addresses and telephone numbers for the men.

'I have sent Lord Justice Scott a file of evidence which greatly disturbs me. I felt it was my duty that he should be informed immediately and I would hope that they would be seen,' Mr de Courcy said.

Mr James said last night that if he was called as a witness he would be prepared to name names. 'I would be able to show how, due to my position at Astra, I had discovered bribes being paid to ministers.'