Lord Taylor, the Lord Chief Justice, has asked to see the papers and other classified material in order to decide whether to grant four businessmen convicted of arms exporting offences leave to appeal.
The men received suspended prison sentences or fines at Reading Crown Court in February last year for breaching arms export guidelines by shipping parts for an artillery fuse assembly line to Iraq.
At a preliminary hearing yesterday, Lord Taylor, sitting with Mr Justice Henry and Mr Justice Blofeld, granted the men leave to pursue their appeals outside the normal 28-day time limit for appeals against conviction. During the original trial, the Home Secretary threatened to issue a Public Interest Immunity certificate to prevent some classified documents being used by the defence.
Paul Grecian, Colin Phillips, Stuart Blackledge, and Bryan Mason claim that the Government knew of their exports to Iraq, which occurred during the late 1980s after guidelines had been imposed banning such trade.
Lord Taylor has also asked to see documents released during the course of last November's Matrix Churchill trial which may have a bearing on this case.
Ordtech, the Reading-based company which employed the men, had no formal association with Matrix Churchill, but the circumstances of the two cases appear very similar. In both cases, one senior manager was briefing MI5 and MI6 on Iraqi orders. In the Matrix Churchill case, Alan Clark, the former Minister for Defence Procurement, admitted that the Government had prior knowledge and three company executives were acquitted. The Government was ordered by the court to submit documents which clearly identified the role that Paul Henderson, managing director, played in providing information to the British authorities.
The Ordtech businessmen were convicted before the Matrix Churchill case was heard. The Independent revealed last year that Mr Grecian, Ordtech's managing director, was reporting to the secret services on his dealings with Iraq.
His counsel, Peter Clark, asked the Court of Appeal yesterday to consider documents relating to these briefings. Andrew Collins QC, for Customs & Excise, confirmed that such documents did exist and added that they would be disclosed to the court.
Mr Clark said that Mr Grecian 'was giving information to MI5 and MI6 which was being passed on to the Foreign and Commonwealth office and, I now discover,being passed on to King Hussein of Jordan'.
The Ordtech defendants were charged with using Jordanian end- user certificates to disguise the ultimate destination of their exports from the United Kingdom.
Lord Taylor adjourned the preliminary hearing to enable Crown and defence counsel to agree which documents could be handed over directly to the defence and which should be submitted to the court for consideration.Reuse content